Most of the vegetables I remember growing up were frozen. Some were canned, like carrots, peas, sauerkraut and, horror of all horrors, asparagus. I vowed never to allow one slimy stalk to cross my sealed, air-tight lips. Of course, time passes and there came a day when I became committed to good health and good nutrition. It was time to aspire towards the greener foods in life. I would eat asparagus. Not canned, not frozen, fresh! I distinctly remember the feeling of relief that came from my first bite of that firm, seductive stalk. A shocking revelation! A shocking difference! I immediately took another vow: I would never allow a canned vegetable to enter my kitchen pantry, save tomatoes and legumes. I have kept my vow and my long happy commitment to good health, green foods, and yes, to asparagus, remains stable. Asparagus is part of the Lily family. You probably recognize its long, tender shoots, some thin and some thick. Both are great, depending on personal preference. Few people realize that asparagus comes in more shades than green. There are purple and white varieties also. Although believed to be Mediterranean in origin, asparagus is grown all over the world these days and can be purchased year-round in the U.S., but its natural season is spring, from March through June, and that’s when it is at its absolute freshest and best. So, now’s the time for asparagus. You’ll get a slew of benefits including folic acid, Vitamins A, C, K and thiamin (Vitamin B-1). Not to mention that just like most vegetables, it’s low in calories, low in fat, contains no cholesterol, and delivers antioxidants such as beta carotene. Asparagus is such a versatile vegetable, delicious hot or cold, sautéed or steamed, roasted or grilled. It’s great as an appetizer, adds flavor to salads, is delicious in soups, and is wonderful as a side dish. Here are some awesome ways to take advantage of asparagus: First and foremost, learn to cook asparagus! Here’s a simple way to Roast Asparagus. Now that you know the basics, try this recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Parsley; roasting with herbs and aromatics really brings out the flavor! Steam lightly for just a few minutes. Eat them crunchy, plain or with favorite dip or dressing. This recipe for Asparagus with Mustard-Herb Vinaigrette is delicious and refreshing. Chop and add to soups, stews, side dishes and pilafs. Make a cleansing vegetable soup by simmering asparagus, onion, favorite leafy greens and carrots in broth or water until tender. Puree and drink up! Make a Creamy Spring Asparagus Soup or Spring Asparagus and Broccoli Soup. Add lightly sautéed asparagus to quiche. Steam, boil or sauté and top with favorite nuts, seeds or fresh herbs. Here’s an idea for Lemon-Sesame Asparagus. Serve as a side dish to steak, chicken, chops, fish, tofu or tempeh. Add it to your favorite pasta like we did in our recipe for Pasta with Asparagus, Prosciutto, Pecorino and Romano or make Risotto with Asparagus. Add asparagus to salad. Great with leafy greens or other lightly steamed veggies such as green beans, broccoli or beets. You’ll love this idea for Red Potato and Asparagus Salad. Lightly steam or sauté; lightly drizzle with a delicious sauce such as lemon butter, Asian peanut, Basil pesto, favorite cheese sauce or a little bit of organic sour cream. Unless otherwise specified in your recipe, asparagus only needs a few minutes of cooking so be sure to add it just before your dish is done. And remember: Asparagus is perishable and best eaten as close to harvesting as possible; plan to use it within a day or two of purchasing. Are you ready to aspire towards asparagus this spring or do you already have the Asparagus-Advantage? Got a favorite recipe? Let me know!