A yearning for asparagus

Ever the optimist, I am cheered by the thought that asparagus season is just around the corner. Thanks to my husband Barry, this wonderful vegetable grows in our back yard. I’m sure I’ve never had anything quite as delicious as the asparagus he cooks fresh from the garden.

The secret is to not overcook it because if you do it will be all mushy and dreadful. Here are two easy ways to cook asparagus.

How to steam

asparagus

Rinse the asparagus to get rid of any dirt, whether it comes straight out of the garden or from the market.

Hold a stalk with a hand at each end and bend until it snaps in two. That’s where tender meets tough. You can save the tough end for vegetable stock.

If the stalks are thick, use a vegetable peeler to peel off the skin about two to three inches from the bottom. It will keep it from being stringy.

If you’ve got a pot deep enough to steam the asparagus standing up, bring about one-inch of water to a boil, wrap string around several spears and put them in the pot tips up. If you don’t have a large enough pot, lose the string and cut the spears into smaller pieces. Cover, turn down the heat and steam until tender for about 5 to 8 minutes. Remember: Don’t overcook.

How to roast asparagus

Rinse, snap and peel and then roll the spears in olive oil. Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in a 425-degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Again, don’t overcook. Tender, not mushy. The tips will get brown, but don’t let them burn.

Loads of health benefits

Asparagus is high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin. Best of all, it contains no fat or cholesterol and is low in sodium.

I can be a finicky eater, and the first time I was served asparagus I did not like it at all. That’s because it wasn’t cooked right. It was mushy and tasteless. I couldn’t believe the difference when, with a lot of prodding from my husband, I gave it a second try. Now, I always look forward to June and July and asparagus for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

And here’s a question that many asparagus eaters wonder? Have you ever noticed a strange smell when you pee after eating asparagus? In the book “The RE/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids,” author Paul Spinrad says a survey of asparagus eaters shows that only about 22 percent of us do.

Guess I’m a member of an elite club of people with sensitive noses. I don’t know if any real research has been done to confirm the number, though.

Even if you can’t smell it, you body apparently still produces the odor. It happens because asparagus contains sulfurous chemicals that are broken down during digestion and excreted in the urine.

Famous authors have waxed eloquent on the subject: “Even when it was not the season for asparagus, it had to be found regardless of cost so that he could take pleasure in the vapors of his own fragrant urine.” From “Love in the Time of Cholera,” by Gabriel Garci?a Ma?rquez.

“Asparagus … transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume.” Marcel Proust.

The things you learn when you start poking around.

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