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Time to start stalking asparagus

Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 5:37 p.m. CDT

April brings showers and asparagus. I remember “ditch digging” for asparagus when I was a child. Although you can purchase it in the store year round (mostly frozen), there is nothing like a fresh batch of asparagus.

Harvest season for asparagus in our area usually begins in April and lasts 2 to 3 months. As well as tasting amazing, asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, folic acid, and vitamin C. It also is high in antioxidants, has only 20 calories per half-cup serving and is fat-free.

According to the National Cancer Institute, asparagus contains more of the antioxidant, glutathione, than any other fruit or vegetable. This antioxidant plays an important role in the prevention of certain cancers and diseases.

When shopping for asparagus, look for spears with tightly closed buds with thin, firm stalks. Fresh asparagus should be odorless. Store your asparagus in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days. You can wrap the stalks in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag or store in the refrigerator upright in 2 inches of cold water. Avoid washing the asparagus until ready to use.

Asparagus cooks quickly and can be steamed, baked, sauteed, roasted or grilled. Here are a couple quick recipes for you to enjoy this spring season.

Broiled asparagus
20 fresh asparagus spears

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt or Mrs. Dash salt substitute

1 tablespoon black pepper

Turn on broiler; preheat. Toss asparagus with olive oil, salt or Mrs. Dash and pepper. Arrange on broiler pan and cook for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Asparagus should be tender and light-golden brown on tips.

Marinated vegetables
2 cups cauliflower, chopped

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

2 cups asparagus, sliced on diagonal

2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained, quartered (packed in water)

¾ cup reduced-fat red wine vinaigrette

10 cups tightly packed spinach leaves

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