Asparagus is a spring vegetable, its shoots emerging early, a harbinger for gardeners that planting season is around the corner. Asparagus is also a perennial vegetable; it continues to grow in the same spot year after year. We eat the young tender shoots as once it grows tall and flowers the stalks are too woody to enjoy. It is native to Europe but is grown in China, Peru, Mexico, Canada and US for production. In years past the asparagus season was quite short but with new cultivars and world cultivation, the season has gotten quite a bit longer.
Enjoy it while you can find it in the grocery store however because fresh local asparagus is a treat.Nutritionally, Asparagus is a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin K, iron, copper, selenium, manganese and zinc. It is especially high in phytonutrients - antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. It contains reasonable amount of fiber and protein for a vegetable (2-3 g each for a 100g serving).
Asparagus also contains inulin, a “prebiotic” fiber that bacteria in our digestive track use as a food source, contributing positively to our own health. Asparagus’s nutritional qualities decline with age so it is best to eat it the same day you buy it at the grocery store. USDA listing of nutritional values for raw asparagus contain be found here.
Medicinally, asparagus is a diuretic. Some people may notice a smell in their urine after eating asparagus. Many people will not as the ability to smell these compounds is genetic and not all of us are able. Consider yourself lucky if this is the case as the odor has been called “disagreeable”, “foul” and “fetid”.
Nutritionally it is best to steam asparagus for a few minutes to just when the spears bend. Toss with salt, pepper, a little butter and some lemon zest. I often roast asparagus however as my vegetable-averse daughter loves to eat asparagus this way.
Oven Roasted Asparagus
Place asparagus in an oven-proof pan. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic. Roast at 425 F for 10 minutes or until cooked as preferred. Squeeze a little lemon juice on the spears and enjoy.