Ingredient of the Month: Asparagus


We take a look at some of the reasons why you should stock up on asparagus this spring.

Spring has arrived and so has asparagus! A tasty, versatile vegetable that can be used in a variety of ways from salads and stir-fries, to risottos and quiches, asparagus is a great all-rounder ingredient.

Health Benefits

Asparagus belongs to the herbaceous plant family that also includes avocado, brussel sprouts and kale. It is a good source of fibre and packed full of nutrients such as vitamins A, C, E and K. It also contains glutathione, an antioxidant compound that breaks down carcinogens such as free radicals. Glutathione can help slow cell ageing and fight certain forms of cancer.

Eating asparagus is good for your brain. It contains folate which acts with vitamin B12 found in dairy, fish, poultry and meat, to protect against cognitive impairment. Asparagus is also a natural diuretic and helps rid the body of excess salt and fluid. It is especially good for people with a tendency to retain water, high blood pressure and heart-related diseases.

Best Ways to Cook Asparagus

Most people like their asparagus cooked but you can eat it raw, or add it to a smoothie if you want to. Be careful when cooking that you don’t over-boil it in a large pot of water or microwave for too long. This turns asparagus into an unappetizing mush and you’ll lose precious nutrients. The best way is to blanch, or steam asparagus in a small amount of water. It can also be stir-fried, grilled and roasted.

Choose asparagus with tight heads and ends that aren’t woody. Thin spears are generally younger and fresher in flavour, thicker spears are older and have a more pronounced taste. Fresh asparagus will snap when bent. To prep, trim off the stem, rinse and drain. If you have asparagus left over, use it as soon as possible. Otherwise, you can store it upright in a jug of water in the fridge to preserve freshness.

Here are some guidelines on cooking times:

Blanching – Tie into bundles or drop individual spears into boiling water, cover and cook for three to five minutes, depending on how thick the spears are. Take out and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Serve immediately on its own or in a salad.

Steaming – Add to steamer, cover and cook for three minutes.

Stir Fried – This is a tasty way to bring out the flavour of asparagus, it only takes a minute in a hot wok, so add it towards the end of your cooking with a dash of soy and sesame seeds.

Grilled – Place in your oven or on your BBQ and drizzle with olive oil, serve with grated parmesan and a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.

Roasted – Preheat oven to 220C and lay asparagus on a foil-lined tray, drizzle with olive oil and season well, roast for 10 minutes. Serve on its own or stirred through a risotto or pasta.