By Riki Shore
Asparagus is a special Spring treat, and it’s the current favorite vegetable with a certain 6 year old in our house. I overheard her say to a friend last week, “Don’t you love asparagus?!”. It took a moment for the other kid to answer, somewhat meekly, “Yeah”.
Asparagus is the young shoot of a plant in the lily family. It still grows wild in this country, and young wild shoots can be eaten raw, but we buy cultivated asparagus, such as the violet-hued Jersey Giant.
It can be an expensive vegetable to serve regularly, with the price of a bunch of a asparagus at about $3.99 here in Southern California, which serves three people at best. I read recently that a bed of asparagus is unproductive for the first two years after sowing, and that it will produce high quality asparagus for only a couple of years. Therefore, a grower may have up to half his land in an unproductive state at any given time, thereby explaining the high cost passed on the consumers. Still, I recommend treating yourself to some asparagus this Spring; the season is short and once it’s gone, you won’t taste asparagus again until next year.
Asparagus is high in carotenoids, B Complex, vitamins C and E, potassium, iodine and zinc. Buy thick or thin stalks – both are delicious – but peel the bottom few inches of the thick stalks to ensure even cooking. The recipe below is very simple; feel free to add flavor with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a sprinkle of wheat-free tamari, or a grating of Parmesan cheese.
1 bunch asparagus, washed and bottoms trimmed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place asparagus on a heavy baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil, sprinkle the salt and pepper, and mix everything well with your hands. The asparagus should be evenly coated.
3. Arrange the asparagus in one neat layer on the sheet. Bake in the oven until asparagus appears slightly wilted and tips are golden brown, about 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.