How to cook asparagus fresh from the garden

Barry Atwood picking asparagus

It’s asparagus season and thanks to my husband Barry, this wonderful vegetable grows right in our backyard. I’m sure I’ve never had any quite as delicious as when he cooks it fresh from the garden.

Here are two easy ways to cook asparagus.

Steamed asparagus

  • Rinse the asparagus to get rid of any dirt, whether it comes straight out of the garden or from the market.
  • Hold a stalk with a hand at each end and bend until it snaps in two. That’s where tender meets tough. You can save the tough end for vegetable stock.
  • If the stalks are thick, use a vegetable peeler to peel off the skin about two to three inches from the bottom. It will keep it from being stringy.
  • If you’ve got a pot deep enough to steam the asparagus standing up, bring about one-inch of water to a boil, wrap string around several spears and put them in the pot tips up. If you don’t have a large enough pot, lose the string and cut the spears into smaller pieces. Cover, turn down the heat and steam until tender — for about five to eight minutes. Don’t overcook!

Roasted asparagus

Rinse, snap and peel and then roll the spears in olive oil. Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in a 425-degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Again, don’t overcook. Tender, not mushy. The tips will get brown, but don’t let them burn.

Courtesy Kathleen Kelly Photo

Loads of health benefits

Asparagus is high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin. Best of all, it contains no fat or cholesterol and is low in sodium.

Why does asparagus make your pee smell weird?

Have you ever noticed a strange smell when you pee after eating asparagus? In the book “The RE/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids,” author Paul Spinrad says a survey of asparagus eaters shows that only about 22 percent of us do. Guess I’m a member of an elite club of people with sensitive noses. I don’t know if any real research has been done to confirm the percentage though.

Even if you can’t smell it, your body apparently still produces the odor. It happens because asparagus contains sulfurous chemicals that are broken down during digestion and excreted in the urine. Famous authors have waxed eloquent on the subject.

“Even when it was not the season for asparagus, it had to be found regardless of cost so that he could take pleasure in the vapors of his own fragrant urine.” From “Love in the Time of Cholera,” by Gabriel García Márquez.

“Asparagus … transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.” Marcel Proust.

The things you learn when you start poking around!

If you’ve never tried asparagus before, do yourself a favor

I can be a finicky eater, and the first time I was served asparagus I did not like it at all. That’s because it wasn’t cooked right. Yup, it was mushy and tasteless. I couldn’t believe the difference when, with a lot of prodding from my husband, I gave it a second try. Now, I always look forward to the end of May, June and July and asparagus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! We’ve already been digging in this year.

Avocado and Roasted Asparagus Salad

I found this avocado and roasted asparagus salad recipe on Oldways, which is a great resource for healthy and delicious Mediterranean recipes. The recipe is courtesy of the California Avocado Commission.

If you like asparagus, you will love this recipe! Feel free to substitute grilled peppers, zucchini, or mushrooms. Add baked tofu or grilled scallops for a main-dish salad.

Ingredients

4 servings

Salad

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 5 ounces spring mix salad greens
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced

Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced*
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Make the vinaigrette: Stir together the lemon juice, garlic, mustard and red pepper flakes. Whisk in olive oil. Taste, add sea salt if desired, and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, just until crisp-tender. (The cooking time will vary based on the thickness of the asparagus; do not overcook.) Immediately remove from the hot baking sheet and cool.
  3. Arrange the salad greens on four individual plates. Top evenly with roasted asparagus, tomatoes, onion, and avocado. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
Calories: 260 Fat: 23g Saturated fat: 3g Carbohydrates: 13g Sodium: 210mg Fiber: 5g Protein: 5g
Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. Now she writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.