All you need to know about... Asparagus
Spearhead your health
If you’re looking for a vegetable that tastes great and is packed with a range of vitamins and minerals, look no further than asparagus. Every spear is crammed full of B group vitamins, vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants to protect the body against disease.
B group vitamins help the body convert fuel from the diet into energy and asparagus provides thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, biotin and vitamin B6. Additionally 3 to 4 spears of asparagus (one serve) provides over 20% of the folate (vital in pregnancy) we need daily. One serve will also deliver a quarter of our daily vitamin C requirements which is important for absorbing iron in our diet.
As well as containing lots of vitamins, Asparagus also provides powerful antioxidants, such as rutin, carotenoids (e.g. beta-carotene), flavonoids, vitamin C, saponins and glutathione, which help keep our bodies healthy now and long into the future.
Green asparagus - Snap the asparagus as close to the woody end as possible using your fingers, or run a knife along the stalk until it meets less resistance, and then cut the end off at this point. Green asparagus has a delicious herbaceous flavour and it can be eaten both raw and cooked.
White asparagus – The spears of white asparagus are usually thicker than green asparagus and they have a thicker outer layer. Remove the outer layer with a vegetable peeler. Snap or trim the woody end. White asparagus is traditionally poached, boiled or steamed.
Purple asparagus – Prepare as you would for green asparagus. When purple asparagus is cooked it can turn a bronze colour so it’s best to add it at the very end of the cooking time. To retain its gorgeous colour it is best eaten raw in salad and tastes great with strawberries which complement purple asparagus’ fruity flavour.
How to cook
Asparagus is an incredibly versatile vegetable and can be cooked many different ways including:
Blanching - To blanch small amounts (1-2 bunches): Place asparagus in a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 30-60 seconds. Remove asparagus and place in a separate large bowl of cold water for 1 minute to prevent further cooking. Remove and pat dry with a clean tea towel.
To blanch larger amounts: Blanch asparagus in batches of 2-3 bunches at a time to maintain the temperature of the water. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and carefully add the asparagus. Return water to the boil and cook for 1 minute and then remove immediately. Transfer the asparagus to a bowl of iced water to reduce the temperature quickly and prevent further cooking. When cooled (1-2 minutes), remove asparagus and drain well on clean tea towels.
Microwaving - Wash 2 bunches asparagus and remove any woody ends. With water clinging to the spears, place asparagus in a microwave safe dish. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2-3 minutes. Remove from microwave oven and set aside for 1-2 minutes. Season and serve with your favourite sauce or dressing.
Steaming - Place asparagus in a steamer insert or basket and place over a saucepan with 2 cm boiling water. Cover and steam for 3-5 minutes (depending on thickness of spears) until asparagus is just tender but still bright green.
Roasting - Pre heat oven to 210°C. Wash 2 bunches asparagus and remove any woody ends. Place asparagus in a large bowl and combine with 2-3 teaspoons olive oil, chopped garlic (optional), salt flakes and freshly ground pepper. Roast asparagus until just tender, 6-8 minutes depending on thickness of spears.
Stir-frying - Wash 2 bunches asparagus and remove any woody ends. Cut asparagus into slices to suit your recipe. Heat a wok or frying pan over medium to high heat, add a little oil and stir-fry asparagus 2-5 minutes depending on size of slices.
Char-grilling & barbecuing - Wash 2 bunches asparagus and remove any woody ends. Place asparagus in a large bowl and combine with 2-3 teaspoons olive oil, chopped garlic (optional), salt flakes and freshly ground pepper. Heat a BBQ or char-grill and cook asparagus until just tender, 4-5 minutes, turning over after 2 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately and serve.