Asparagus has been growing in popularity in recent times. It is a welcome shift from the standard vegetables in the U.S. diet, which seems to thrive on broccoli, green beans, sweet peas, carrots and corn. Different varieties of asparagus give eaters some color choices: green, white, purple and wild.
Baking asparagus is one the fastest and easiest tasks to tackle in a kitchen. Prep time and cooking should take no more than 20 to 30 minutes.
To Prepare Asparagus:
There are many variations for baking asparagus. The most successful ones take into account the palates and food tolerances of the people who will be eating it. Here’s a basic preparation method:
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Trim the ends and wash the asparagus in warm water.
- Place the pile of asparagus onto baking or parchment paper.
- Place two or three pats of butter on top of the asparagus. If watching cholesterol, use olive or coconut oil.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Squeeze a lemon over the pile
- Wrap the parchment paper around the pile and then wrap it a second time in aluminum foil.
- Place the wrapped asparagus in the oven and let it bake for about 20 minutes. The thicker the stalk, the longer the stems will need to cook. Be careful, though, not to overcook. The stems should be tender and crisp, not soggy.
Other Flavor Alternatives
It will take some experimenting to find the right flavor if the butter and lemon are a little too plain. Some cooks like to pour white wine over the asparagus just before wrapping it so that it retains moisture while cooking. Other flavor choices include: balsamic vinegar, before and after cooking; toasted sesame seeds; toasted almond slices, shredded or flaked cheeses like Parmesan; and garlic. Meats can also play a good flavor role. Prosciutto and cured bacon wrapped around individual stems give a smoked or cured flavor. Most of the time, the prosciutto will come out of the oven slightly crunchy.
Although asparagus is available year-round, spring is the best time to get it fresh. If the conditions are right, asparagus spears can grow about 10 inches in a 24-hour period. When asparagus spears are planted, it takes about three years before the first harvest. Then, the plant will keep producing for 15 years before it is time to replant new seeds. Most of the asparagus produced in the United States grows in Michigan.
It is one of the healthiest vegetables healthy eaters can place in their diets because it is full of nutrients. There is potassium, fiber, thiamin and vitamins A, B6 and C. Those with iron deficiencies or fighting liver disease will find the folic acid especially beneficial. It is the vegetable with the highest supply of folic acid. Asparagus is also good for what it does not have: no cholesterol, no fat and little sodium.
Fresh asparagus should be covered up with a waterproof wrapping and kept cold. It is best to trim the stems first about 1/4 of an inch and the wash the asparagus in warm water before patting them dry. Maintaining freshness works much like keeping fresh-cut flowers. Standing the asparagus up in two inches of cold water while refrigerating or enclosing the cut ends with a damp paper towel beneath the waterproof wrapping will help it stay crisp and prevent it from going limp. Asparagus can last up to three days this way.
For freezing, asparagus will have to blanched and then shocked by putting it in ice water. The best way to preserve freshness and flavor is to use a vacuum sealing system or try to get as much air out of the plastic storage bag as possible.
Why Asparagus Changes the Smell of Urine
Most people who love asparagus notice that their urine has a specific smell after they eat it. Some vegetable enthusiasts believe a compound in the vegetable called methylmercaptan, which contains sulfur, is the culprit. Others believe that an amino acid called asparagine is the cause. The smell does not mean that anything is wrong, however. It just means that the amino acids in asparagus are being properly broken down and transformed into nutrients.
For a demonstration on how to bake asparagus see the video below: