On my way home from work I got a flat tire, I should have brought “asparagus.”
Asparagus is typically grown in oceanic locations and thrives in soil that is too salty for other weeds to grow. Salt has been traditionally used in the soil to suppress other weeds in the fields intended for the vegetable. Asparagus belongs in the species of officinalis, which is a perennial flowering plant that grows tall with firm stems and can grow singularly or clustered together. The female asparagus plants can flower with small red berries that are actually poisonous to humans. From seed to harvest can take up to three years, but once they get going, the plants can be picked each spring for 15 years or more.
This spear-shaped vegetable, informally known as sparrow grass, has been dubbed the “food of kings” by kings and queens dating back to first century B.C. … Roman emperors had “asparagus fleets” to gather the best quality asparagus to return with. Asparagus has been cultivated all over the world for more than 2,500 years and is still widely grown today. China is the largest producer of asparagus in the world, followed by Peru. Oceana County of Michigan hosts the National Asparagus Festival in June of each year to celebrate the harvest, where they actually have self-proclaimed to be the Asparagus Capital of the World.
Asparagus can come in a variety of three different types: green, white and purple. Green asparagus is the most common and can range from very thin to thick spears. White asparagus is grown below the soil to prevent any production of the chlorophyll and is the most preferred around Europe. Any type of asparagus can produce white spears, as long as it is not open to light. Purple asparagus produces thick spears that are generally tenderer and taste sweeter. However, purple asparagus does not produce as many spears as the green asparagus.
To prepare your asparagus, thoroughly wash the spears under cool running water because they are grown in soil – or if you have a large enough container, ice water will release any sediment to the bottom. The base of the stalk on asparagus is a very tough, woody texture, and does not taste very good when cooked; just cut the base off of the spears (usually about one to two inches, or just above the white-colored base tip). Thicker spears may need to be peeled to get through the tougher exterior.
Methods of cooking asparagus are plentiful:
- Blanch in salted water and “shock” the spears in an ice bath. This will allow your asparagus to maintain its bright color and stay crisp. This is best to serve cold for salads or other decorative side dishes.
- Steaming is another great method to preserve the asparagus’ crisp texture. Easily place in a vegetable steaming basket over a small amount of boiling water and steam until they’re bright green, yet still crisp.
- Sautéing for stir-fry is one of my favorite methods. I prefer to cut the spears into half-inch segments for easier bites, but they can be left whole as well.
- Roasting the asparagus is a very common method because of the ease of preparation. Simply lay into a single layer on a roasting pan, drizzle with oil, season and put into the oven at 400℉.
- Grilling the spears is my preferred method of all, especially when they are thicker than average. It creates a great, tender, yet crisp bite with the great taste of smoke from the grill.
- Don’t be scared to season! Asparagus is surprisingly good with a number of different types of seasoning. My personal favorite is a Greek blend of herbs and spices such as salt, black pepper, basil, oregano, parsley, dill, and garlic and onion powder.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss new ingredients, you can always feel free to chat with me! I love to work with any ingredients that I can get my hands on and have explored many traditional and innovative alternative methods of cooking. So, even if there’s something new that you would like to explore, we can go on that culinary adventure together! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kyle is a graduate of the culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu. With almost 10 years of experience in the culinary industry, Kyle has trained in almost every technique of cooking from Classic to Modern. Fresh ingredients will always be found exciting, no matter how mundane they are. Kyle’s goal is to spread awareness and knowledge of all the possibilities that pertain to the culinary world.