Spring is here! It's that glorious time of year that brings erratic weather, pink blossoms on trees, and lawns with gradually deepening shades of green. But of course, my favorite thing about spring is the vegetables that start to grow.
Among my favorite spring vegetables is asparagus. Have you noticed that it's been on sale at the grocery store lately? That means it's in season!
A Little about Asparagus the Plant
Asparagus is a perennial plant; if you plan to stay in one spot for more than five years, consider taking advantage of your yard space and start an asparagus plot. Trust me - you'll never regret having an annual supply of these fresh stalks!
Look for thicker stalks in the grocery store that are nice and crisp - avoid stringy, limp stalks of asparagus. I love dark green asparagus, but white asparagus is a delicacy in some countries. It's grown in darkness so the photosynthesis that creates the chlorophyllic green is absent; its flavor is mild and stalks are tender.
Why Asparagus is so Great
Low in Calories: Like other vegetables, asparagus has few calories, but lots of nutrition. One of the reasons is its high fiber content - a cup of cooked asparagus has only 40 calories but 4 grams of fiber. Also, it's really delicious.
Lots of antioxidants: Lutein, zeaxanthin, carotenes, and crypto-xanthins, oh my! These antioxidants support immune health, capture free radicals to reduce cancer risk, and may even help protect the body from neuro-degenerative diseases.
Vitamins & Minerals: The beautiful rich green color of asparagus hints at its great nutritional value. Asparagus is a very good source of a variety of B vitamins, vitamins A, C, E, and K. It is also a very good source of iron, copper, phosphorus, and potassium. Asparagus, you're a killer veggie and I love you for it.
So you Noticed that your Pee Smells...
There is this funny thing that happens after eating asparagus - have you ever noticed the odd scent your urine has after eating a plethora? Actually, after just a few stalks you might notice this change.
Never fear; there's nothing wrong with you! Asparagus contains asparagusic acid (ha, I know, right? it sounds like something from Harry Potter). Asparagusic acid contains a sulfur molecule. Sulfur, as it turns out, is pretty stinky (giving things like garlic and skunk spray their very distinctive odors).
The sulfur in asparagusic acid isn't quite as volatile as that in the other compounds, however. It's not until it's broken down in the digestive tract that the sulfur is released. About one-fourth of the population has the genetic code to break this down; if you're one of the lucky one-in-four, then congratulations: asparagus makes your pee smell funny. (Note: another interesting fact is not everybody can smell the sulfuric scent of asparagus. Read more about this weird phenomenon here.)
All right. Are you ready to make some of this pee-smelling goodness? Roasting (of course) is one of my favorite ways to cook vegetables (like this delicious roasted broccoli) because of the great flavor it imparts to foods.
Start by rinsing asparagus well in cold water. Snap off the base of the asparagus where it naturally breaks - this optimizes the amount of edible asparagus while naturally avoiding the stringy, tough ends.
Toss asparagus with two tablespoons canola oil, a half-teaspoon of coarsely ground salt, and one teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and arrange one-stalk deep in a 9x13-inch baking dish.
Roast at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes, turning asparagus in the pan about half-way through cooking. Roast to your desired tenderness (poke with a fork to check!) and serve hot.
2 lbs. fresh asparagus (about 2 bunches)
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Rinse asparagus well in cold water. Snap off the base of the asparagus where it naturally breaks.
Toss asparagus with oil, salt, and pepper and spread in a 9x13-inch baking dish.
Roast at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes, turning asparagus in the pan about half-way through cooking. Roast to your desired tenderness and serve hot.
Serves 5 - Serving Size: 1 cup - Nutrients per serving: 86 calories -- 6g total fat -- 0g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 0mg cholesterol -- 196mg sodium -- 7g total carbohydrates -- 4g fiber -- 3g sugar -- 4g protein