Asparagus is sold by colour. Green asparagus has a sturdy stalk and a pointed end with tightly-closed scales and is the most popular. White asparagus is grown without exposure to sunlight (which accounts for its pale colour) and is predominantly used for canning. The relatively new addition to the market, purple asparagus, gets its colour from antioxidants and has the sweetest flavour of the three types.
The spears should be firm and the tips should be compact with small scales. Asparagus with thicker spears have a longer shelf life.
Keep in the fridge, standing upright in a cup of water and covered with plastic. Trim the bases before putting into the fridge to increase storage time. Asparagus can be stored for up to two weeks, but is best when used immediately after purchase.
The woody base of asparagus spears (bottom 2–3cm) needs to be removed before cooking. Asparagus can be steamed, sautéed, grilled or cooked in the microwave and make a great side to meat dishes. You can also chop it into omelettes, quiches, soups and frittatas, or add spears to salads and pasta dishes.
4 quick ways with asparagus
This is an easy and delicious side dish. Blanch 1 bunch of trimmed asparagus. Bring 1/2 cup reduced-salt vegetable stock and the zest and juice of 1 lemon to the boil. Stir through 1 teaspoon cornflour and 1 tablespoon water. Allow sauce to thicken, then pour over asparagus just before serving.
Make asparagus soup as a yummy starter or as a light lunch on a cold day. Sauté 1 finely chopped onion until soft. Add 2 bunches chopped asparagus and cook for 5 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups reduced-salt vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before blending in a food processor (or with a stick blender) until smooth. Gently reheat, add the juice of 1/2 lemon and season to taste. Add a dollop of low-fat Greek yoghurt, if desired.
Try this quick frittata recipe. Sautée trimmed asparagus, chopped leek (white part only) and crushed garlic in an ovenproof frying pan. In a bowl, beat 6 eggs, a large splash of skim milk and a handful of grated parmesan. Pour mixture over vegetables and bake for 20 minutes at 200ºC, until cooked and set.
Asparagus adds crunch to any pasta dish. Add asparagus to pasta during the last two minutes of cooking. Mix together chopped tomatoes, tinned tuna, basil, crushed garlic, olive oil and lemon juice and add to drained pasta and asparagus. This light dish packs up well for lunch the next day.
Did you know? Asparagus is a great source of folate and 100g asparagus has only 90kJ.