Sweet flavors of springtime

“Sweet April showers do spring May flowers.”

— Thomas Tusser

Spring brings new inspiration to conscious cooks. With lighter, luscious ingredients replacing the heavier, sturdier foods of winter, a new focus can be found in the kitchen. Very soon the asparagus will begin their annual ascent, their slim stalks shooting up towards the sun, providing a most elegant and distinctive element of spring.

Prized for its unique flavor and texture, asparagus has been revered for centuries and is referred to as the “King of Spring.”  In ancient Roman times, only the wealthy could afford this succulent delicacy. Roman emperors were especially fond of the slender spears and employed special asparagus fleets to fetch it for their tables. King Louis XIV of France was so enamored of asparagus that he ordered greenhouses to be built so that he might enjoy the exquisite flavor of asparagus year round. Julius Ceasar is credited with first serving asparagus with melted butter.

While the flavor of asparagus is divine, its health benefits are no less pronounced.  Asparagus contains potent amounts of B vitamins, which may help regulate blood sugar levels. A significant source of fiber and protein is found in asparagus, both of which are essential for promoting excellent digestion and building up a strong immune system. The anti-inflammatory compounds found in asparagus may help protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Eating asparagus is a perfect beauty treatment for the skin, as the antioxidant content may lessen the effects of sun damage and pollution, thereby lessening the effects of aging. Asparagus contains vitamin A, which can improve vision, and vitamin K which supports bone strengthening and healthy blood clotting.

For the most pleasureable asparagus experience, purchase from your local farmers. Whether you find your asparagus at the farm stand or supermarket, look for consistent, evenly green color, with no yellow stems or tips. The tips should be firm and tightly closed.  To store, keep the rubber band on to hold the bunch together, trim about an inch off the bottom of the stems and stand the asparagus up in a glass with an inch or two of water in the bottom. All the ends should be sitting in the water. Loosely cover asparagus with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days, changing the water if it becomes cloudy.

Fresh spring asparagus is so delicious, that after rinsing it off, you can simply take a vegetable peeler and peel off long, thin strips. Pile the strips onto a salad plate and dress with olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Scatter freshly shaved parmesan on top and season with a touch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Lightly steamed asparagus set atop buttered toast and topped with a poached egg is a quintessential spring celebration. Asparagus soup is sublime for those damp April days.

No matter how you choose to enjoy fresh spring asparagus, you will surely be preparing a delicious life.


Spring Asparagus

Serves 4-6.

2 pounds fresh asparagus, well rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

pinch of coarse sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus. Place asparagus spears on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle evenly with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic. Season with salt and pepper.  When oven is ready, roast for approximately 5-8 minutes, or until desired tenderness.

Variations:  Before serving, sprinkle with a little balsamic vinegar. Or add sundried tomato strips, or toasted almonds, or plenty of finely chopped herbs, or chopped hard boiled egg or capers and lemon peel.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net.

Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com