A is for Asparagus

AsparagusGuest blog by Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I am a little ahead of myself this month, for the official start of the British asparagus season is May 1. However, our native asparagus will start to appear on market stalls, so enjoy this healthy spring treat over the next few weeks (and don’t even think about buying imported, tinned or bottled).

Asparagus is an excellent source of fibre, folic acid and vitamins A, C, E and K. It is also rich in chromium, which may help improve insulin sensitivity and prevent/control diabetes. It contains glutathione, which helps break down carcinogens and free radicals, thereby protecting against cancer. Incidentally, avocado, kale and Brussels sprouts are also rich in glutathione – making the Superfood salad below a particularly healthy option.

Finally, asparagus contains the amino acid asparagines, which is a natural diuretic. It therefore has a ‘cleansing’ effect (good to include on a detox day or week). Incidentally, your urine may smell odd after consuming asparagus, because it breaks down to give sulphur-containing compounds which have a strong odour (but are completely harmless).

ABC juice

I had never juiced asparagus before, but I’m always keen to try new ingredients. Asparagus, Beetroot and Carrot felt like a good combo, to give an almost 100 per cent vegetable juice (with the addition of my usual lemon and ginger). You could also try an all green version, replacing the beetroot and carrot with celery, cucumber and spinach.

Bunch of asparagus, chopped
Small beetroot
Six carrots
Lump of ginger, peeled
One lemon, chopped into quarters
Juice all ingredients

Asparagus Superfood Salad

Try replacing tenderstem broccoli with asparagus in a traditional superfood salad. This is very good with grilled salmon.

Serves two

Bunch asparagus
Bag of watercress
Large avocado, peeled and chopped
Handful of dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds
Half packet of alfalfa sprouts
Cook the asparagus in boiling water for around 5 minutes, drain and cool. Then assemble the other ingredients, chop the asparagus into small pieces.
Make a dressing by crushing a clove of garlic with mustard powder and/or some grainy salt till it forms a puree. Then add 1 tbsp cider vinegar, juice of half a lemon and 1 tbsp flax seed oil. Toss all the salad ingredients in the dressing.

Pasta Primavera

There are four green ingredients in this main dish – asparagus, peas, pesto and mint. Of course, you can add more (try chopped baby leeks, broad beans, parsley). If you have a bit more time, you could put together a home-made pesto, maybe even replacing the basil with rocket or watercress. I found a chilli and tomato pesto on the deli counter, which was ideal for me as I find it hard to do pasta without tomatoes! But fresh, regular basil pesto works just fine. Pesto in a jar is OK too.

Serves two

100g penne
Tub of fresh pesto
100g peas
Bunch of asparagus, chopped
Set the pasta to boil. When the pasta is half-cooked (about 5 minutes) add the asparagus and peas. Finish cooking the pasta (about five more minutes). Drain and stir in the pesto. Finish with chopped mint.

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