Today we’ve got a recipe for Asparagus Pasta, as well as growing, storage and preparation tips for asparagus from our Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.
Ada Bagalio, a volunteer cooking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook tested the recipes. Her comments are below in italics.
Asparagus is native to the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Wild varieties of the plant grow in northern Africa, western Asia, and Europe, but asparagus is also cultivated far from its original roots. Heralded as a true sign of spring, asparagus spears shoot up from the ground as the weather begins to warm. Asparagus stalks are green or sometimes purplish by nature, though they can be grown to be white, too. Prized as a delicacy in fine restaurants, asparagus is also a longtime homegrown vegetable that lends itself to simple cooking. Unharvested asparagus stalks grow into tall, bushy plants with feathery foliage.
People start asparagus beds one of two ways: either they start the plants from seed or, more commonly, they plant “crowns,” segments of established asparagus roots. Plants started from seeds typically take about 3 years to produce good spears, so planting crowns is a good alternative for the impatient. Plant crowns in mid-spring in trenches about 6 inches deep. The closer you plant the crowns, the more slender your spears will be, but 10-12 inches is adequate space. Cover with 3 inches of soil initially, and then again in a few weeks. Asparagus grows well in rich, well-drained soil, meaning that you should apply compost regularly and plant in a location where water won’t puddle. Do not harvest spears the first year! When your asparagus has been growing for 2 or 3 years, harvest spears (either by snapping or by cutting close to the ground) that are about the thickness of your finger and 8-10 inches tall. Harvest for 4-6 weeks and then allow the remaining spears to develop into full-sized plants. The adult foliage nourishes the underlying crown; avoid cutting it back until it dies in the fall.
Asparagus is best eaten right away but it can be stored for a few days. Trim the bases of the asparagus stalks, set the bundle upright in a small bowl of water (like a bouquet), loosely set a plastic bag over the top, and store in the refrigerator.
Asparagus is one of the best sources of folic acid, which lowers the risk of heart and liver disease as well as certain cancers. In addition to a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, asparagus also contains antioxidants and the phytochemical rutin. Rutin is believed to promote healthy blood vessels and capillaries. Asparagus is low in calories, too!
Before cooking asparagus, remove the tough bottom ends by snapping them off where they naturally break. Some people choose to peel the skin off thicker spears as well. Asparagus can be simply boiled or steamed and served with butter. Cook until tender (5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the spears). Also great to eat raw.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Asparagus Pasta
(adapted from fitnessmagazine.com)
- 1 pound pasta (linguine or fettuccine)
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 pint cream or half-and-half
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Juice of 1 small lemon
- Salt and pepper
- Bring 2 pots of water to boil (one for asparagus, one for pasta). Cook pasta as directed on box.
- Boil asparagus for 3-4 minutes and drain.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat, taking care not to burn it. Sauté garlic and asparagus in butter for a few minutes. Pour in cream and Parmesan, if desired, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over pasta and serve immediately.
- Note: goat cheese (chèvre) can be substituted for a tangy alternative.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Flavor: Excellent ***** 5 stars
- Fill pot with cold water; Boil pasta until al dente. Do not overcook.
- Ladle 1/4 cup pasta water into sauce.
- Add 1-2 Tablespoons lemon zest.
- Cut the asparagus into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal, or each stem into 3 pieces.
My husband loved it so much he said I should make this dish once a week!
To receive more recipes and tips on your favorite fruits and vegetables, download Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook. We also need more volunteer home chefs for this project.
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