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A versatile spring vegetable for holiday meals: Asparagus
Mar 29

Associated Press

What better ingredient for a spring holiday meal than a seasonal food favorite like asparagus? It's at the top of my can't-wait-for-spring vegetable list.

Asparagus can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, roasted, baked, grilled, or broiled. Pretty much any way you can cook a vegetable.

It is harvested from February to June in various locales, with March and April being prime season in most places.

If you're lucky, you might live in a part of the country where asparagus grows wild. Asparagus foragers look forward to the season, and hunt for their prey in ditches, ravines, next to streams and in various places near fresh water. Wild asparagus can be found across the U.S., mostly in rural areas.

In stores or at farmer's markets, look for asparagus that is not too dried out at the cut ends. The tips should be tightly closed, without fraying or damage. The stalks should be firm and smooth, other than the tiny petal leaves that emerge. If the asparagus smells off, or looks wrinkled, withered or slimy, skip it.

To store asparagus, trim off an inch or so from the bottom and place the shoots in a tall, wide glass, vase or measuring cup with a couple of inches of water. Loosely cover the tops with a plastic bag and store in the fridge for three to seven days.

Before it's cooked, a rinse under cold water is usually all that asparagus needs. If you are preparing it using a dry heat method, like roasting or grilling, dry it before cooking.

Asparagus usually cooks in about 6 to 14 minutes, depending on the cooking method, the thickness of the stalks and, of course, how tender or crisp you like it. Remember, it will continue to "cook" and soften after it leaves the heat.

The most traditional kitchen technique for trimming asparagus is to hold the stalk in the middle and near the bottom end and snap it. This removes the woody and fibrous bottom few inches of the stalk.

I think that method wastes more stalk than necessary, especially if you are preparing thick asparagus. Better to simply take a vegetable peeler and peel the thick green outer layer from the bottom 3 inches or so of the stalk. For thin asparagus, just cut off the bottom inch or so.


Steaming: Put the asparagus on a rack or in a basket suspended over simmering water in a pot with the lid on. If you don't have a steamer apparatus, add them to just a small amount of water simmering in a covered pot.

Boiling: Simply include more water in the pot than you would for steaming. I prefer steaming, as I feel less of the flavor is lost to the cooking water.

Blanching: Cook the asparagus briefly in boiling water, then immediately drain the water and plunge the vegetable into ice water. This softens it slightly but then stops the cooking, sealing in the bright green color.

Roasting: One of my favorite ways to cook asparagus. Its natural sugars are concentrated by the oven's high heat, and you get a lovely golden exterior. I roast them at 400 to 425 degrees F.

Grilling: Just make sure to position the spears perpendicular to the grates so you don't lose any.

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2023

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