When we speak of asparagus, we mean the fresh shoots of green and white asparagus plants, an immensely popular vegetable that is harvested all over Europe between the end of March and June. Like many other vegetables, asparagus consists largely of water and contains very few calories, which is one good reason for its popularity with slimmers. It does, however, contain lots of vitamins and dietary fibre.
Good asparagus should squeak when the spears are rubbed together
Asparagus is a very delicate vegetable and needs to be handled carefully from the time of harvest to the time of cooking. You can recognise good-quality asparagus by the fact that the tip of each spear is closed, the cut end is moist and not hollow (you should see moisture form when you press it with your fingernail), and the spears squeak when they are rubbed together. Green asparagus is usually thinner than its white cousin, and the tips are generally slightly open.
Wrap asparagus in a moist towel
Asparagus should be eaten as fresh as possible, but you can keep it in the fridge for two or three days wrapped in a moist towel. You can also freeze it once it has been peeled and cooked. White asparagus has a tough stringy exterior, which should be removed before cooking, whereas green asparagus usually doesn't have to be peeled. We recommend removing about one centimetre from the cut end of each spear because it can be woody and bitter. The tender tips cook much more quickly than the rest of the spear, which is why asparagus should be tied in a bunch and cooked upright in a tall pot at a moderate temperature. Green asparagus is also delicious fried or steamed.
Good during pregnancy
Fresh asparagus is more than just a tasty side dish – it is also chock full of vitamins. It contains high levels of vitamins C, E, B1 and B2, as well as folic acid which is essential in preventing foetal malformation during pregnancy. Asparagus also provides valuable minerals, such as phosphorus, calcium and potassium. Potassium has long been known to stimulate the kidneys and was used in ancient China as a remedy for bladder problems. People suffering from gout, however, should avoid asparagus because its tips contain substances that can trigger a gout attack.
Asparagus is traditionally served with new boiled potatoes, melted butter, hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise and ham. But it can also be used in soups, gratins, quiches and an endless variety of other recipes – just let your imagination run wild! You can find a range of delicious asparagus recipes at www.essen-und-trinken.de/spargel.