Glossary of Foods: Asparagus

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Spring has sprung and so has an abundance of seasonal spring veggies! Asparagus is in season during springtime, so we're adding these healthy little spears into the vegetable rotation for an especially delicious and healthy meal.

Skinny Mom Lemon Pepper Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable. The root system of the asparagus plant, called the crown, grows in deep, sandy soil for three years to strengthen the root system before any asparagus are harvested! But the asparagus are well worth the wait, as the same plant will produce spears every spring for about 15 years without being replanted.

Young asparagus spears are harvested in the spring at about 6 to 8 inches tall when their flavor is still mild and the stalk is tender. A single crown may produce spears for 6 to 7 weeks during the growing season. Seasonal weather determines how frequently a field of asparagus should be harvested. Early in the growing season, a field may go 5 days between pickings, but as the season warms up, it may need to be harvested every 24 hours! Under ideal growing conditions, an asparagus spear can grow up to 10 inches in a 24 hour period. Talk about efficient!

In addition to being low in calories, asparagus are also high in fiber and a myriad of vitamins and minerals, making asparagus an ideal veggie! Asparagus is known for its high folate content, a critical nutrient for women. Potassium and vitamins A and C are also in high supply in asparagus.

And now to address the question lingering on the tip of your tongue: Does asparagus actually make your urine smell? Well, folks, the jury is still out on this one! Scientists are divided between two schools of thought. One side believes that some people do not produce the scent when their bodies digest asparagus. The other side believes that some people simply can't smell the odor. Smell or no smell, asparagus is still mighty tasty and exceptionally healthy!

When shopping for asparagus at the grocery or farmer's market, it's best to look for firm, thin, rounded stems. Thicker asparagus will have a tougher, woody texture when cooked. The ends of the asparagus should be dark green or purple and with closed leafy tips. It is possible to find white or purple asparagus at some markets as well. White asparagus is grown by denying light to the stalks to prevent the production of chlorophyll in the plant. White asparagus has a slightly milder flavor than green asparagus. The purple variety of asparagus has a slightly sweeter flavor, but is often more difficult to find at the grocery. After purchase, store asparagus in the fridge with the cut ends wrapped in a damp paper towel to keep it fresh.

>> Read more: 10 Spring Foods to Add to Your Grocery List

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Asparagus is great served alongside your favorite hearty dinner! Here are 8 tasty asparagus side dishes to try with your seasonal asparagus selection. Asparagus is a great addition to your weekly detox soup, and leftovers make a quick and easy lunch. Also try throwing some asparagus on the grill at your first barbecue of the season.

>> Read more: 10 Health Benefits of Spring