April showers bring May flowers and asparagus! While local farmers are gearing up for their spring harvest, we found one veg that is in peak season now…Green Asparagus.
Eaten raw, stir-fried, boiled, or steamed, as a side, in salads or soups, this versatile, tender veggie of the Lily Family has been highly prized for centuries. It is packed with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant nutrients, provides digestive support, and is delicious.
What’s not to love?
How does it grow?
Asparagus is a “perennial” vegetable, which means that it can live for several years without having to be replanted (most other veggies must be planted each year). Starting from the root of the asparagus, stems grow upward underground until they develop into spears and emerge through the soil – this is when they are harvested.
It takes almost three years from the time the seed is planted to the first harvest of the stalks!
Did you know that the asparagus plant has a gender? That’s right, it can be either male or female; the female ones produce seeds (which makes their stalks smaller), and the males are larger and tend to be more desirable at harvest.
When is the prime time for asparagus?
Now! Although you can get it all year round in most places, early spring is the really the best time to get the highest quality stalks.
What should I look for when buying them?
You want green asparagus stalks that are firm, straight, relatively thick, smooth, and of a vibrant green color. Be sure the tips are closed. Stay away from stalks that have a dull, light color and look limp. If you are cooking them all at once, it’s wise to choose stalks of the same size so you will have some uniformity when cooking.
OK, I bought some beautiful local asparagus. How should I store them?
Green asparagus shouldn’t be stored for too long; we recommend cooking them soon after buying. If you must store them, you want to make sure they get enough moisture, so try wrapping them in a wet paper towel (closer to the end of the stalk) and seal in a zip lock bag. Stored this way they should stay fresh for about 3 days.
What about cleaning?
Before cooking, rinse the stalk and especially the spears under cool water to get rid of any remaining dirt or bugs that might be stuck. You may snip off the bottom inch of the stalk and use the rest as you wish (whole, diced, sliced, etc.) depending on the recipe. Note that if you have asparagus that has a tough outer skin, you may opt to peel away the coat with a vegetable peeler, but this is not necessary.
What’s the best way to cook them?
There are many ways to cook them. Try coating them in olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and pepper and roast in the oven…super simple and delish. Adding a pinch of parmesan cheese on it is also great.
You may also use the spears alone in salads, or poach them, use them as a side for a fish dinner or even with eggs for a perfect brunch.
Check out below for another one of our favorite recipes using green asparagus.
OK, I have to ask. Why does my “you know what” smell after eating asparagus?
Don’t worry, we were wondering the same thing. This doesn’t happen with everyone, but if you do experience this, you aren’t alone. Scientists say that this happens because the sulfurous amino acids from the asparagus break down into different sulfur-containing components that often, well, smell bad.
Let us know where you are finding local asparagus and how you like to prepare them. We want to know!
I was in Israel for Passover last week and began my quest for asparagus soon after arriving in the Haifa area. We decided to visit a small olive oil producer named Makura, where we met the farmers and bought some beautiful ceramics from Orna, the owner (along with husband, Guy), last year. Somehow, Orna has a little spare time to throw bowls after tending to the acres and acres of olive trees (some from the Roman era), grapes, oranges, persimmon, lychee and avocados.
Makura did not have asparagus but Orna made a quick phone call to her friend Anat Avitar, who has been growing many acres of asparagus in the next village, Kerem Maharal, for more than 20 years. We visited with Anat the next day, and after seeing rows and rows of seedlings next to her ceramic studio, we drove out to the sunny fields which were brimming with acres of feathery foliage of the asparagus plants.
Not only did Anat share fascinating facts about asparagus but she is ALSO a talented and prolific ceramicist. Next time, I’m bringing an extra suitcase and plenty of bubble wrap!
Before you snub anchovies, you should know that when chopped and dissolved in a little olive oil, they add a depth of flavor and a piquant boost with no discernible trace of the source.
When you taste deeply delicious Mediterranean cooking, and Italian dishes in particular, anchovies are often the secret ingredient. Just try….
This recipe is pareve.
- 2 pounds asparagus, rinsed and patted dry.
- 4 Tb. olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 2 ounce tin of anchovies, rinsed in cold water, patted dry and chopped into a paste*
- 4 Tb. Italian parsley, chopped
- 3 Tb. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Cut off only the white ends of asparagus stalks (about 1 inch). Lay the asparagus on a cutting board. Using a vegetable peeler, shave with a very light hand, mid-way up each stalk.
- Place asparagus in a pot that is large enough to contain the asparagus, lengthwise.
- Cover with just enough water to submerge the stalks, add salt and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- They should be crisp and slightly undercooked.
- Drain asparagus in colander and plunge into ice bath to stop the cooking.
- In the same pan, add olive oil and anchovy paste. Simmer slowly, stirring, until the anchovies dissolve in oil.
- Pat asparagus dry and return them to the pan with tips all facing in one direction.
- Add parsley and lemon juice and turn once or twice, with tongs, so that asparagus are coated in the dressing.
- Remove from pan and place on platter. Drizzle with juices from pan and decorate with lemon wedges.
*Some canned anchovies have tiny tails and backbones. Simply remove them before you chop. Asparagus may be served warm or at room temperature. Leftovers would be great in an omelet or tossed into scrambled eggs. Alternatively, cut the stalks into one inch pieces and add to any green salad.
This recipe is from my collaborative eBook, "4 Bloggers Dish: Passover".