Posted May 3, 2011
Asparagus a versatile vegetable packed with nutrients
No comments Angie Holmes/SourceMedia Group News

Asparagus soup by Jennifer Goodlove at Farmer's Daughter's Market in Hiawatha. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

 HIAWATHA — Although April’s showers and cool temperatures have slowed the growth of asparagus, the spring garden staple should rebound with a few sunny warm days.

“It’s not gone for the season,” says Jennifer Goodlove, owner of Farmer’s Daughter’s Market, 495 Miller Rd. “Anything under the ground will grow; anything above the ground will freeze. It’s been known to grow 6 inches in one day.”

Although asparagus stalks don’t like high heat, they don’t like freezing temperatures either. Sunny and 65 degrees are ideal conditions for asparagus to grow.

Jennifer Goodlove, Farmer's Daughter's Market, Hiawatha

“It will start popping soon,” Goodlove says.

That’s good for growers who plan to sell asparagus at farmers markets beginning this week, such as the Noelridge Park and Eighth Avenue markets in Cedar Rapids and the Iowa City market.

It’s even better for those who have been waiting for fresh asparagus.

“You either like it or you don’t,” Goodlove says.

And those who like it, love it.

Linda Ashley, dietitian, Oakland Road Hy-Vee, Cedar Rapids

“I love the flavor and springness of it,” says Linda Ashley, dietitian at Hy-Vee, 3235 Oakland Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids.

It can be eaten raw in salads or with dip, like carrots or celery sticks, or can be used in soup or quiche.

“It’s very versatile,” Ashley says. “People need to give it a try.”

For those who are not so sure about eating asparagus, roasting or grilling may be a good way to introduce them to it, she says.

When Goodlove grills asparagus, she rolls the stalks in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, sprinkles them with Italian seasoning and wraps them with prosciutto or bacon.

She places the stalks right on the grill rack and cooks for only about a minute or two.

“People don’t like it mushy,” Goodlove says. “That’s what happens when it cooks too long.”

Roasted, asparagus is a little bit caramelized which enhances its natural flavors, Ashley says.

Jennifer Goodlove's secret recipe asparagus quiche at Farmer's Daughter's Market in Hiawatha. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

During asparagus season, Goodlove uses it in quiche, soup and salads every day at her market in Hiawatha.

“We’re cutting it and serving it the same day,” she says.

When freshly picked, asparagus isn’t as fibrous, or “woody,” at the stem.

“You’re less likely to cut off a lot from the bottom,” she says. “It cuts easy and clean on the bottom, not wasting anything.”

Although some think thicker asparagus stalks are more woody than thin ones, that’s not the case, Goodlove says.

“It’s just how it grows,” she says. “They don’t taste any different.”

Fresh asparagus should cut cleanly near the base. Asparagus should be stored upright in water to preserve freshness. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

After picking asparagus, Goodlove suggests storing it in a covered plastic container with water in the refrigerator door. It keeps for seven days, but Goodlove says if you still have some left after a week, you must not like it very much.

When freezing asparagus, she doesn’t blanch it (put in boiling and then ice cold water) first.

“It’s so water-based, it will be too mushy if blanched,” she says.

As well as having a fresh flavor and many uses, asparagus is low in calories and packed with antioxidants and nutrients such as folate, fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C.

“It’s so healthy for you,” Goodlove says.

And it’s not the canned stuff you remember from school, she says.

“Fresh is so much better,” she says. “Anything that you can grow out of the garden tastes better.”

FARMER’S DAUGHTER’S MARKET 

ASPARAGUS SOUP

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds asparagus, cut in half crosswise

2 tablespoons concentrated chicken broth

6 tablespoons butter

2 cups of water

1 medium onion chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot shredded

3 teaspoons parsley

1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

Dash of allspice

1 quart half and half

4 ounces cream cheese

In soup pan, combine all ingredients except half and half and cream cheese. Cook ingredients until onions are soft. Pour these cooked ingredients in food processor and blend. Add to this mixture the cream cheese.

Once blended, pour the mixture back into soup pan. Cook at medium heat and add the half and half.

From Jennifer Goodlove, The Farmer’s Daughter’s Market, Hiawatha

ROASTED ASPARAGUS TIPS AND POTATOES

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

5 potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Drizzle asparagus tips and potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with Italian seasoning and kosher salt and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir with spatula. Bake another 20 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

From Jennifer Goodlove, The Farmer’s Daughter’s Market, Hiawatha

ASPARAGUS-PEPPER FRITTATA

Serves 6

3 slices bacon

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

6 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

1/2 cup half-and-half, light cream or milk

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat broiler. In a 10-inch broiler-proof skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Drain bacon; crumble and set aside.

Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces.

In a saucepan, bring about 1 inch water to boiling. Add asparagus, pepper strips and onion; bring just to boiling. Reduce heat slightly; boil about 1 minute or until crisp-tender. Drain well. Spread asparagus-pepper mixture evenly in skillet.

Combine eggs, cheese, half-and-half, parsley, bacon, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour over vegetables in skillet. Cook over medium heat. As mixture sets, run a spatula around edge of skillet, lifting egg mixture so the uncooked portion flows underneath. Continue cooking and lifting the edges until the egg mixture is almost set.

Place skillet under the broiler. Broil 1 to 2 minutes or until top is just set and begins to turn golden. Cut into wedges to serve.

From Hy-Vee Seasons Spring 2011

LEMON LOVERS’ ASPARAGUS

2 bunches asparagus, tough ends trimmed

2 lemons, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss asparagus, lemon slices, oil, oregano, salt and pepper on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, shaking the pan occasionally to toss, until the asparagus is tender-crisp, 13 to 15 minutes.

Adapted from Eating Well, Inc.

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