Featured Vegetable: Asparagus
It's summer and the perfect time to purchase and prepare local seasonal vegetables. One of the more anticipated vegetables for the spring and summer seasons is asparagus. When you think of asparagus, you probably think of long stalks that are green in color. But, did you know that it is available in white and purple colors as well? White asparagus is grown under dirt or sand preventing sunlight from reaching the plant, thus preventing chlorophyll (the green pigment) from being produced. Instead, it contains the white pigment anthoxanthin. Purple asparagus gets its color from the flavonoid anthocyanin.
The lack of chlorophyll in white asparagus makes it slightly more tender than green asparagus, however, the taste is very similar. Purple asparagus, on the other hand, typically has thicker spears and a sweeter flavor than the white and green varieties. Take a stroll through the produce section, and you are certain to find green asparagus; white and purple varieties are also available but may be more difficult to find and slightly more expensive. Take a trip to Europe, however, and the white variety is easy to find.
Asparagus is a versatile vegetable as an ingredient in a recipe or as an accompaniment to any meal. Roasted, grilled, steamed, sautéed, or stir-fried, asparagus is full of flavor with endless culinary possibilities. The key to preparing great tasting asparagus, however, is knowing what to purchase. Select asparagus that is firm, yet tender, and has tips that are closed and compact. The stalks that are narrower in diameter are more tender than thick ones. Enjoy asparagus by adding it to your favorite soup, salad, sauce or casserole dish or try a new recipe for dinner tonight like Roasted Asparagus with Lemon & Goat Cheese or Lasagna Primavera.
In addition to being full of flavor, asparagus is also packed with nutrients. For only 20 calories, a ½ cup serving of cooked white or green asparagus provides 2 grams of dietary fiber, a good source of the antioxidant vitamins A and C and an excellent source of folate and vitamin K. Purple asparagus provides one less gram of fiber but an extra 2 grams of protein per ½ cup. Compared to its white or green counterparts, purple asparagus is thought to have greater antioxidant activity due to its abundant anthocyanin content. No matter what color, adding asparagus to your meals can help give your body a nutritional punch while filling you up with few calories. Eat green asparagus and it will count toward your weekly 1 ½ cup recommended intake of dark-green vegetables set forth by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines!
Still trying to figure out how to get asparagus into your diet? Don't forget about Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Asparagus soup - a flavorful ingredient in any recipe! Check out some of these recipes for inspiration: