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What to do with asparagus

There's much more to asparagus than its regular appearance at morning teas, rolled up in a slice of white bread!

Availability: September-January.

Buying: Choose firm, crisp spears with compact tips and tight scales. Thick spears tend to have a better shelf life than thin. Fresh asparagus is 'squeaky', ie. when the stalks are rubbed together they squeak. Old asparagus is rubbery and doesn't squeak.

Storing: Buy small quantities and eat regularly as asparagus tastes better when eaten within one or two days of buying. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge, or wrap the butt ends in wet paper towels. You can also store asparagus in a jar with the ends in 2cm of water, like flowers in a vase. With careful handling, asparagus can keep for more than two weeks.

Nutrition: A rich source of folate, which is an important nutrient for us all, especially women in early pregnancy. Asparagus also has a useful amount of fibre, and is high in antioxidants.

  • Grill spears on the barbecue until caramelised and sweet. Serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
  • Add sliced asparagus to stir-fries for a burst of colour and flavour.
  • Make fresh deluxe asparagus rolls. Lightly cook asparagus, then roll in wholemeal bread with a slice of smoked salmon and a smear of mayonnaise.
  • Spray asparagus with a little olive oil and roast in the oven. Add vegetables like courgettes and beans. When tender, toss through pasta with a little cooked chicken or canned salmon.
  • Make a super-quick lunch or dinner with grainy toast, asparagus steamed in the microwave, a poached egg and some mustardy dressing. Sprinkle with black pepper and shaved parmesan.
  • Slice raw asparagus spears and serve in salads with other green veges like spinach, beans, peas and mint.
  • Wrap thin slivers of bacon or proscuitto around fat asparagus spears and roast in the oven until tender.
  • Steam or microwave asparagus and serve with mayonnaise diluted with lemon juice and a little whole grain mustard.
  • Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, toss to coat and grill or barbecue until sweet and caramelised.
  • Dip steamed asparagus spears in the runny yolk of a boiled egg.
  • Add asparagus to a quiche filling – fan the spears decoratively on top.

The small, bumpy, triangular scales on asparagus spears are called bracts.

First published: Nov 2008



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