How To Cook Asparagus and Asparagus Health Benefits
There really are no big secrets in how to cook Asparagus, and Asparagus health benefits are immense, as they are stuffed with nutrients.
Asparagus is a member of the lily family, and has around 300 varieties, although only 20 of these are edible.
The slim green asparagus are the most widely used, and there is a purple variety as well, very similar. The white, fatter Asparagus are more usually found in tins and jars, but can be found fresh in some specialist shops. These will be much more expensive as they are less common, and harder to harvest.
This is because the green and purple varieties grow above ground, the white below ground (thus preventing the addition of colour caused by chlorophyll production, from the sun)
Bunch your Asparagus
How to Cook Asparagus
Easy to Cook
There is no need to peel Asparagus, just make sure you wash them thoroughly, after cutting off around half an inch to an inch at the root end. This is actually easier if you snap it with your hands, as you can feel where it is really hard, and becomes more tender.
Avoid iron pots, as tannin in Asparagus will react with iron, and cause discolouration
You can buy an Asparagus steamer, which is a tall slim metal container with holes, which holds the Asparagus upright, with the root end at the bottom, whilst boiling.
This container is not necessary, you can take a handful of asparagus spears, and tie them together in a 'bunch' then you can stand them upright in your pan. You only need the water to come about one third of the way up the vegetable, no more than halfway, as the spears at the top are better steamed, while the firmer root end will need a little more cooking. Boil with a lid on, for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your spears. This way you get an even cooking throughout.
You can lay them down in a pan to cook, but they won't cook so evenly.
You can cook them like this in a microwave too, tie them and stand upright in a jug, or similar tall recipient. Water up to about one third, and cook on high for approximately 5 minutes.
To stirfry, you should cut spears into three or four pieces, preferably with diagonal cuts, and separate the tips from the rest. Add the stalk pieces to your stirfry first, and the tips just for the last couple of minutes.
Another excellent way to cook asparagus is on the barbecue, just as they are, or drizzled with a little olive oil. Or wrap them in foil along with leeks and place packet on barbecue..Delicious!
Asparagus from the can or jar, will only need a minute or two in the microwave, as they are usually very soft, already cooked. Cooking them any more will just make them mushy.
White Asparagus are normally used cold with salad.
Three Colours of Asparagus
Asparagus Health Benefits
This nutrient-dense vegetable is one of nature's most health promoting gifts to us.
Asparagus has no fat, no cholesterol, and very low in sodium.
There are less than 4 calories in each spear.
It is a rich source of fibre, potassium, vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as thiamin. It has more folic acid than any other vegetable. Just five spears provide 60% of the RDA for folacin, which is needed in the formation of blood cells and their growth, as well as preventing liver disease. Has also been known to help prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
Research has shown that folacin reduces the risk of miscarriage, and of birth defects, including spina bifida.
It is suggested that women should increase their intake of folacin as soon as they decide to try for pregnancy, or even before that, once reaching childbearing age. Asparagus being so rich in folacin, is the ideal way to introduce this to your system.
The folate content of asparagus makes them very helpful in the fight against heart disease, and because of its mineral content, is an excellent natural diuretic. It has been noted that Asparagus in the diet can cause a distinct odour in urine, this is due to a variety of sulphur containing compounds, which while having a strong smell, do no harm.
Asparagus also contains rutin, which helps to strengthen capillary walls.
Asparagus is good for the treatment of problems involving swelling, as in rheumatism and arthritis. It also contains inulin, a certain kind of carbohydrate that our body doesn't digest, but once it reaches the large intestine, it is useful to the friendly bacteria, in their fight against unhealthy bacteria.
Making a juice drink from Asparagus, in a liquidiser or blender, is a very good way to get all its wonderful nutrients into your system, especially for those who don't like to eat vegetables.
The Asparagus juice can be mixed with fruit juices, and taken daily, helps immensely in the prevention of a variety of illnesses, especially as stated before; in pregnancy or leading up to pregnancy.
The purple variety of asparagus, much smaller than the green or white, has a more fruity flavour and has anthocyanins, phytonutrients which cause it's purple colour. This purple colouring often disappears during cooking.
When buying fresh asparagus, don't buy more than a day or two before you are going to cook it. It doesn't keep well, and should be stored away from heat, light and air, as these will destroy the folate content.
If you are cooking asparagus and want to serve it cold; immediately it finishes cooking, place it straight into a bowl of iced water, for just a few seconds, and remove. Leaving it too long in water will turn it mushy.
Once cooked, it can be tossed into salads, or pasta dishes, and makes a wonderful filling for omelettes.
Avoid Asparagus if you have gout or kidney stones, as the purines found in Asparagus can form uric acid, one of the main problems in these conditions. This is not to say asparagus will cause these conditions, but anyone who has to reduce their intake of purine and uric acid, should reduce their intake of foods that contain the substance.
Asparagus for cancer prevention?
This is a subject still being researched, and there are many claims for and against. It is an ongoing debate, and while it seems most likely that Asparagus does help in the prevention of cancer, the tests are still ongoing.