The first tips of asparagus pushing through the wet spring soil (and sometimes through a late-season snowfall) have always been a clear herald of spring for me. What a treat it is to enjoy this first sign that Mother Earth, once again, is generous enough to provide us with delicious foods to nourish the body as the sun rises higher in the sky and another season comes into bloom.
Asparagus has a multitude of health benefits, but especially impressive are its benefits for the digestive system. It contains a unique nutrient called inulin. Inulin is a pre-biotic, a food that literally feeds certain beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria in turn, help us to absorb nutrients, protect against allergies, and increase immunity. Few other foods contain inulin in the such high quantities as asparagus.
Asparagus also contains the beneficial phytonutrient, saponin. Saponins have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and intake of saponins has been associated with improved blood pressure, improved blood sugar regulation, and better control of blood fat levels. Additionally, asparagus is very high in the nutrients Vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, and certain other B vitamins. And it also contains impressive amounts of glutathione, one of the best-studied and most beneficial antioxidants.
Asparagus is more perishable than many vegetables. Wrap the ends of your bunch of asparagus in a damp paper towel or cloth, and this will help to increase storage time in your fridge. You will want to consume asparagus within 48 hours of purchase to get the most taste from these tender greens shoots.
I generally enjoy asparagus by itself or simply prepared. Here’s a delicious and simple recipe to enjoy.
Simple Roasted Asparagus
1 lb asparagus spears (use thicker ones for roasting)
1-2 TBSP olive oil
2-3 cloves minced garlic
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and trim asparagus (make sure to cut the hard part off the bottom). Mince garlic. Place in appropriate sized baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, ground pepper, and minced garlic. Place asparagus in oven and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes. You may spread stalks around and turn ½ way through cooking to make sure olive oil is coating the spears and they are cooking evenly.
Once cooked through and removed from oven, splash a little lemon juice on top, and serve!