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Food tip: All about asparagus

on April 30, 2013 10:50 AM

There are about 300 varieties of asparagus, 20 of which are edible. It’s part of the lily family.

The asparagus plant lives between eight to 10 years. You can tell the age of the plant by the thickness — the older the plant, the thicker the spear. Asparagus plants grow in sandy areas, so it’s important to wash them thoroughly before eating.

The most common varieties of asparagus are green, white and purple in color. The earliest stalks have a gorgeous apple-green color with slightly purple tips. White asparagus is grown underground and isn’t exposed to sunlight. They have thicker and smoother spears.

One-half cup of boiled or steamed asparagus has 20 calories and 2 grams each of protein and fiber. It’s an excellent source of vitamin K and folic acid, a B-vitamin that may help decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer and birth defects. Asparagus is also a good source of thiamin and vitamins A and C.

Asparagus is high in the flavonoid rutin, which may help reduce inflammation and strengthen blood vessels. It has a good amount of glutathione, which is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. Asparagus also contains a plant chemical that may reduce bone loss, improve sex drive and help fight certain types of cancer.

Use these tips to cook perfect asparagus:

  • Large spears of asparagus can have tough skins. Use a veggie peeler to remove them.
  • The asparagus tips cook faster than the stalks. Cook stalks standing up in water with the tips slightly above the water.
  • Do not let asparagus sit in water for too long. It’ll become soggy. Instead, remove from the heat when it’s tender but slightly crisp.
  • Try grilling or roasting for sweet and nutty flavor.
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