Foodie Friday: Asparagus Buying Guide

Move over spinach. With only 40 calories in a cup, and about four grams each of fiber and protein, plus potassium, iron and folate, asparagus is a nutrition powerhouse. 

Even better for the summer months, asparagus is a natural diuretic which releases fluid and helps rid the body of excess salts.

Typically asparagus is in season April to June. Choose stalks with tightly closed buds at the top and moist ends (dryness indicates age). Here are some more things to consider:


RIPE VS. OLD

Bright green asparagus, the most popular in the United States, is a sign that it is ripe and fresh. Keep a lookout for the straightness of the stalks, if the tips are closed or not, and the size of the stalk, which should be no larger than your thumb. 

If you notice these qualities in your asparagus, it may be time to throw it out: 
  • Your asparagus spears are limp, especially in the places where the elastic was placed
  • The tips aren't tight and instead of being a dark green or purple they are a light green or yellow
  • Slime and moisture are starting to form which is the vegetables' version of mold

SKINNY VS. FAT
The girth of thin spears simply indicates that they come from a younger root bed. As plants mature, they begin to produce thicker stems. Spears that come from the same plant will taste similar, regardless of size.

GREEN
The leafy-colored asparagus is the most common and popular in the United States. It’s also widely grown in China, Peru, Mexico and Germany.

WHITE
These colorless stalks, which are preferred in Europe, are the same variety as green. Their ghostly look comes from being grown under mounds of soil (or in other light-deprived environments) to prevent photosynthesis. Along with the obvious visual difference, white asparagus has been described as less grassy-tasting and more pleasantly bitter than green asparagus.

PURPLE
That violet color is a clue that these stalks contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that research suggests may protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Purple asparagus turns green when cooked, so some cooks like to flaunt its color by slicing it crosswise and serving it raw in salads. It’s a different variety than green asparagus, and the flavor is sweeter.

Don’t know how to prepare asparagus? Learn how to roast, steam or grill them in the spring issue of GMC’s Vim and Vigor Magazine online.



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