Every spring I anxiously await the seasonal appearance of those first spears of asparagus gracing the displays at my local Whole Foods Market®.
Although grown the world over and available year-round in the US, asparagus is freshest and at its best during the spring. It’s 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.
Asparagus has an ancient, regal history too. I laughed when I learned it was first eaten by Julius Caesar in Lombardy, where he declared he wanted it served with melted butter — that’s my favorite way, too.
King Louis XIV loved it so much he called it “The King of Vegetables,” and King Louis XVI was so enamored with it that he insisted his gardeners grow it year-round in hothouses.
Asparagus is a member of the Lily family, known by its long, tender shoots, some thin, some thick. Both are tasty, depending on personal preference. Few people realize that asparagus comes in more shades than green; there are purple and white varieties as well. The plant’s exposure to sunlight determines what color the asparagus will be.
Here’s a selection of some wonderful asparagus ideas and recipes:
- Lightly steam or sauté; serve with a leafy salad, a whole grain salad or a side dish. I love this Sesame-Roasted Portobellos with Asparagus. For something simple and quick, try this Ham and Asparagus Skillet Meal.
- Asparagus makes our Spring Salad with Strawberries and Creamy Orange Avocado Dressing seriously good.
- Add to soups and stews a few minutes before ready to serve.
- Need a quick appetizer or light meal? Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus to the rescue!
- Our Asparagus and Broccoli Soup is healthy and tasty and perfect for spring, as is our Creamy Spring Asparagus Soup.
- Lightly steam or sauté; chop and add to tuna, shrimp, chicken or egg salad.
- Roasted Asparagus stands on its own!
- Asparagus is delicious with assorted pasta and noodle dishes. Here’s a recipe for Pasta with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Pecorino. This Penne Primavera with Salmon is made with asparagus, grape tomatoes and peas.
- Sick of limp lettuce on your sandwich? Add asparagus instead. That’s what we did with our Grilled Goat Cheese, Asparagus and Prosciutto Sandwiches, but you can also do it with turkey, tuna, tofu, avocado, hummus and sprouts.
- Asparagus in Veggie Sushi is awesome.
- Cook any way you like and eat on toast, flat bread or crackers.
- You will love our Asparagus and Cheese Spoon Bread.
- Lightly steam and use as a dipper for your favorite dip or spread.
- Try bean dips, a variety of hummus, eggplant dip, tofu dips, smoked salmon dip, cheese and dairy dips.
- Here’s a Tofu Curry Dip with Chives that would love asparagus.
- Pair with poultry, fish, tofu or tempeh, pork, lamb or beef. Enjoy this Quinoa Primavera with Chicken, Spring Peas and Asparagus.
- Add to stir fries like we did with Stir-Fried Beef with Asparagus and Pork Stir-Fry with Asparagus, Peppers and Green Onions.
Remember, asparagus can quickly go from gorgeous to gruesome. Fresh is best but frozen will do in a pinch.
Unless otherwise specified in your recipe or making a puréed soup, asparagus only needs a few minutes of cooking, so be sure to add it just before your dish is done. It’s quickly perishable and best eaten as close to harvesting as possible; plan to use it within a day or two of purchasing.
Do you long for the spring in anticipation of asparagus? Got a favorite idea or recipe? I would love to hear.