“Asparagus inspires gentle thoughts.” - Charles Lamb
The day was long, full and exhausting today. A couple of “heavy” meetings that went for hours, a one-to-one conversation with a “difficult” staff member and as well as that all of the usual, “routine” bits and pieces of every-day business. When I got home I was quite tired, having put in a 12-hour day. Fortunately, this does not happen every day, but it seems to have increased in frequency of late.
It was good to get home and relax, enjoy a home-cooked meal and exchange some pleasant conversation on everything and anything except work. Springtime brings with it many delicacies and one of these is the tasty and nutritious asparagus (Asparagus officinalis). Widely cultivated for its tender, succulent, edible shoots, asparagus began to be cultivated more than 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region. Its unique, distinctive, herbaceous flavour assures the popularity of fresh asparagus, which has stood the test of time. Spring signals the start of the asparagus season and a time when we can take advantage of its health-giving properties.
Asparagus is packed with nutritional goodness, with not only useful vitamins and minerals, but also dietary fibre and cancer-fighting components. It provides the complement of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin and vitamin B6, all of these vitamins helping enzymes do their job in the normal metabolism of the body. B group vitamins help the body convert fuel from the diet, such as carbohydrate, into energy. With sufficient B vitamins it is easier for us to be active and get the best out of each day. One B vitamin is folate, and asparagus is rich in this, meaning that the vegetable is excellent to consume in pregnancy for a healthy baby. Adequate folate is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. One serve of asparagus (about 4 spears) provides over 20% of the folate we need daily.
One serve of asparagus, provides a quarter of our daily needs of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and helps in the absorption of iron in the diet. Iron is a very important mineral for healthy blood. Although asparagus provides only a modest amount of iron, being high in vitamin C, the body is better able to absorb the iron that asparagus provides. Asparagus has also plenty of potassium and virtually no sodium. A diet high in potassium and low in sodium (salt), helps keep a steady heartbeat and healthy blood pressure.
Asparagus provides some powerful antioxidants, such as rutin, carotenoids (e.g. beta-carotene), flavonoids, vitamin C, saponins and glutathione, all helping to keep our bodies healthy, reducing the risk of cancer and slowing the ageing process. Asparagus is low in kilojoules, without fat or cholesterol, while providing fibre. That makes it a must for any diet, including a weight loss diet.
Green asparagus is the main variety grown in Australia, but there are also white and purple asparagus varieties, that can dress up a dish quite spectacularly. Although asparagus is easy to cook it is difficult to grow. The asparagus plant is unpredictable in its growth and rather whimsical in the way that it may crop. It is fragile and tender, vulnerable to frost, hail, heat and wind, which bends the spears and, under extreme conditions causes “sand blasting” of the tender spears. The growing, harvesting and packing of asparagus are extremely labour intensive processes and once harvested, asparagus is a highly perishable product. This is reflected in its price, making it a relatively expensive vegetable.
We had a delightful asparagus omelette tonight, which was a delicious, filling yet quite light meal.
4-5 asparagus spears per person
4 medium eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little ground mace
1 tbsp clarified butter
3/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Chopped fresh chives
- Prepare asparagus by snapping the woody ends off.
- Blanch the spears in boiling water for 3–4 minutes or until tender.
- Refresh briefly under cold water and cut into bite sized pieces.
- Whisk eggs together with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper and mace.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add butter, allow to melt then pour the egg mix into the pan, spread evenly and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the base has set.
- Place the asparagus on half of the omelette with grated cheese and chopped fresh chives.
- Fold remaining half over the asparagus side.
- Finish under a grill or in a hot oven and serve straight away, with a fresh green salad.