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Dublin: 19 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020

What to do with... crisp, firm and green asparagus

Ignore the haters who say it makes your pee smell, because asparagus is a seasonal summer dream.

Image: Shutterstock/Ekaterina Kondratova

TRYING NEW INGREDIENTS is a great way to open up new worlds of food and recipes. Each week, we’re taking one ingredient we reckon you should add to your storecupboard collection and kitchen arsenal.

This week, we’re getting into the spirit of seasonal summer eating with… asparagus.

What’s this then?
Asparagus is a spring vegetable that’s currently at its seasonal best in Ireland. The green stalks come from a flowering plant that was once part of the lily family. Green asparagus is most popular here, but in the US and Eastern Europe you’ll often spot cultivated or “white” asparagus on supermarket shelves too.

What does it taste like?
Green asparagus has a distinct, fresh flavour, but when it’s not in season can tend to have a slightly bitter taste, so watch out. Overcooking only intensifies the bitterness, so simply streaming the stems for about two minutes in enough.

Okay, but why should I start eating it?
Although a very nutritious vegetable, asparagus is extremely low in calories; one serving contains less than 30 calories, plus it’s high in fibre despite being 93% water. Plus, it’s incredibly versatile – steam it, pan-fry it or roast it for great results.

Hmmm. What kind of dishes can I use it in?
Asparagus works very well alongside stronger flavours such as garlic or salty foods like bacon, as it tends to absorb other flavours very well. If using in a salad, plunge it into ice cold water after steaming to stop the cooking process and retain the natural vibrant colour. You can even dip it into a boiled egg as an alternative to bread soldiers!

Okay, I’m sold. Give me a few recipes to get started.
Asparagus is perfectly delicious steamed on its own with a drizzle of lemon and olive oil. If you’re looking for something a little more exciting, here are some of my favourite recipes…

1. BBC Good Food’s Asparagus Fries: Skip the potatoes and try asparagus fries instead.

2. Jamie Oliver’s Soft Boiled Eggs with Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus: Comfort on a plate, with a bit of bacon-wrapping to up the ante.

3. Scaling Back’s Asian Asparagus Slaw: This is a zingy side perfect for a summer barbecue.

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