Healthy foods: How to Cook Asparagus
Packed with nutrients, asparagus is a tasty treat this time of year. Asparagus is one of the first vegetables ready to harvest in spring and although it's available as early as February, April-May is the peak season.
Very rich in folic acid and glutathione (a powerful cancer-fighting compound according to the National Cancer Institute), asparagus is also a good source of potassium, fiber, Vitamin B-6, Vitamins A and C, iron, thiamin and fiber. It contains no fat or cholesterol and is low in sodium.
Part of the lily family, asparagus is native to the Mediterranean and was eaten by ancient Greeks. Today, China and Peru are the largest producers and exporters of asparagus, followed by the United States and Mexico. Wild asparagus can often be seen growing by roads and railroad tracks.
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Asparagus varieties and selection
Asparagus can be found in white and green varieties; green is most common in North America, while white is popular in Europe. White asparagus is grown under the soil so that the plant doesn't produce chlorophyll, which gives asparagus its green color. Planting Note: If you're thinking of growing asparagus in your garden -- it should be planted initially in autumn. After that, it will continue to come up each spring on its own.
When selecting asparagus, choose firm, tender stalks. For green varieties, choose stalks with deep green or purplish tips that are closed and compact.
How to Store Asparagus
Because asparagus is highly perishable, eat it soon after purchasing. To store, wrap the stalk bottoms with a damp paper towel and place in the crisper for up to four days.
White asparagus should be cooked until completely tender but the green variety can be lightly steamed, stir-fried or cooked in the microwave. You can even enjoy it grilled.