Asparagi - Latin for many asparagus spears, is a spring time vegetable that is green, white and purple. It has a subtle flavour - varying on the colour of the vegetable. The white asparagus is generally the thickest and least flavourful if served on its own. The purple coloured asparagus is bolder in flavour than the white and makes an attractive offering on a simple platter served with lemon butter. The green variety is the tastiest.
Generally they are 6 to 8 inches long and sold in bundles. Pick the best ones - fresh, firm and flawless. Whatever the colour of the vegetable they all have a white collar at the bottom of the stalk. This is generally the woody end which can be fibrous and should be cut and discarded - or added in your vegetable broth. You can peel them starting from the tip down. The shelf life is short and should be stored with a damp kitchen towel if you plan to save it for more than 3 days. Wild asparagus is green and thin, less fibrous but can have a bitter after taste. Out of season asparagus can be woody and lacks much flavour.
While Asparagus can be served grilled, steamed, poached or well cooked depending on the recipe it is often cooked for a longer time to break down the fibers when preparing a soup or mousse. When young and tender a crisp asparagus can be cooked for just 5 minutes! Traditionally asparagus was always served rather soft, but like most other vegetables it is no longer necessary to over cook it.
Healthy and nutritious Asparagus have Vitamins A, C and K. It also considered a food group that helps balance cholesterol, blood pressure and anti inflammation.
An accompaniment to meats, cheese, seafood it also pairs well with velvety sauces and pastry. Asparagus continues to be popular for making soups, mousse, salads and even savoury cheesecakes. Citrus foods like lemon, orange, pomelo and grapefruit pair particularly well with this delicate vegetable. When serving it soft you could serve it up with cucumbers, radish, carrots to compliment the dish.
This vegetable was once considered a delicacy largely associated with French cuisine - Asparagus tips are still a delicacy in the gourmet club. Over the years as palates change, recipes altered and trends flourish, this vibrant vegetable is pretty much part of world foods.
Photo courtesy Yashaan Mavalvala