No one in Ontario can deny that spring is here when local asparagus arrives in the stores. I’m grateful for asparagus from Mexico but when spring arrives I anxiously wait for the stores to announce that local Ontario asparagus is ready to eat.

Green is the most common type of asparagus. The spears get their beautiful green colour from direct sunlight. White asparagus is seen later in the season.  Grown from the same seeds as green asparagus, they remain white because they are grown under soil. Purple asparagus have large burgundy spears and a creamy white interior, and are sweeter than the green and white varieties. 

green, purple, and white asparagus

Green, purple, and white asparagus

A newly planted asparagus bed won’t be fully productive for several years. But once that happens, the bed will produce an abundant crop of spears spring after spring for at least the next 20 to 30 years. A mature asparagus crown will produce a half pound a year.  A good rule of thumb is to plant ten plants for each family member.  According to the California Asparagus Commission, one pound of asparagus contains 12-15 spears that typically measure 9-10 inches long and 1/2-3/4 inch thick. One pound serves 2-4 people. That statement led me to ask the question “What is the difference between thin and thick stalks?”   Cooks Illustrated says the diameter is determined by two factors: the age of the entire plant (younger crowns produce more slender stalks) and its variety. There isn’t a significant difference in the flavor although the larger diameter stalks are more tender and better for grilling and roasting. (https://www.cooksillustrated.com)

Asparagus can be prepared and enjoyed in a number of ways.  I’ve eaten it raw wrapped with prosciutto (thank you to my sister-in-law);  roasted wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with balsamic vinegar (thank you to the Royal Botanical Gardens); roasted with parmesan cheese; steamed and served dotted with butter (Yum);  as an ingredient in a stir-fry.  Check out this website for more recipes like this one:

Let’s Cook Asparagus!

Lemon Roasted Asparagus Gratin

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (500 g) Ontario Asparagus, trimmed
  • 1½ tbsp (22.5 mL) olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp (2.5 mL) grated lemon rind
  • ¼ tsp (2.5 mL) each salt and pepper
  • ½ cup (125 mL) Panko crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • ½ cup (125 mL) shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1½ tbsp (22.5 mL) lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
  2. Spread asparagus evenly in 13 X 9-inch (3 L) baking dish.
  3. In small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, lemon rind, salt and pepper. Drizzle over asparagus and toss to coat. Roast for about 10 minutes, shaking dish halfway, or until asparagus is tender-crisp.
  4. In bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese and lemon juice; sprinkle over asparagus and bake for about 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Place dish under broil and broil for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden.

Nutrients per serving (1/4 recipe): 155 calories, 10 g total fat, 263 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrates, 3 g fibre, 7 g protein. Excellent source of folate. Good source of iron.

Local asparagus is around for a short few weeks so you better get some soon!