Asparagus, perhaps the vegetable most closely associated with the beginning of spring, is almost here! Asparagus is a favorite for many people, and with good reason. The speared shape and the tender tips are unique features of this veggie, as well as its woody, sweet-but-slightly-bitter flavor. One cup of raw chopped asparagus is an excellent source of vitamins K and A. It’s also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, and the B vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin and folate, plus the minerals iron, copper and manganese. Whew! Plenty to love about this veggie!
Many people are surprised to find that asparagus stalks shoot straight up from the ground, almost like the stems of flowers before they bloom. Instead of seeds, you plant one-year-old “crowns” (stems with an established root system) around this time of year. This vegetable spreads easily; so make sure you put the crowns in a place where they can expand without getting crowded by other plants. They start to pop out above ground within just a few weeks, but don’t eat them. Let them sprout and go to flower, so they grow super strong the following spring for you to eat. Our perennial asparagus patch yields green and purple spears, and when they are about 6 or 8 inches tall, we snap them off about an inch above the ground and usually eat them right away because they are so good. Once you taste a freshly picked asparagus spear, you will definitely want to grow it!
One of my favorite childhood memories was eating steamed asparagus. My dad and sisters would race each other to see who could each the whole asparagus from tip to base the fastest. As you can imagine, we ate a lot of asparagus to win the races! Asparagus can be prepared in tons of ways, and it’s hard to pick a favorite! In addition to raw, it can also be shaved into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler and tossed with olive oil and lemon juice for a refreshing salad. Asparagus can be roasted or grilled to add some crispiness, or steamed to crisp-tender, like I used to eat it, for a simple side dish. It goes great with Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and garlic. And it’s delicious in soup! Here’s one of our favorite recipes at the Barn, Asparagus Guacamole:
At HealthBarn USA, we wanted to celebrate the arrival of asparagus by creating a “fiesta” dish in its honor, so we created this super cool guacamole! Scoop it up with your favorite corn or whole grain chips. Enjoy.
1/2 bundle of asparagus, ends trimmed
1 ripe Hass avocado
¼ cup Greek reduced fat yogurt
½ red onion
Bunch of chives (or 2 scallions)
½ cup fresh cilantro (or parsley)
1 clove of garlic, smashed
½ teaspoon lime zest
Juice of one lime
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- Prepare an ice bath (bowl of cold water and a few ice cubes) for the asparagus.
- In a medium saucepan, fill half way with water and bring to a boil, add asparagus, and boil for about 3-4 minutes until tender. Using tongs, transfer asparagus to the ice bath and cool for 30 seconds. They should retain a bright green color.
- In a food processor, combine asparagus, avocado, Greek yogurt, red onion, chives, cilantro, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth (if it’s not blending easily, try adding slight amounts of water). Adjust seasoning, adding more salt or lime juice if needed.
- Transfer to a colorful bowl and serve with whole grain or corn chips!
Makes approximately 12 servings (2 Tablespoons per serving).
Nutrition Facts per serving: 40 calories; 3g fat (0g sat fat, 0g poly, 2g mono, 0g trans fat); 0mg cholesterol; 4g carbohydrate (2g fiber, 1g sugar); 1g protein; 40mg sodium; 6% Daily Value (DV) vitamin A; 10% DV vitamin C; 2% DV calcium; 4% DV iron.