Asparagus

Asparagus

takes me on a walk down memory lane

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Some of my earliest memories are of the garden in our backyard in upstate New York, watching my grandmother or my mother do whatever they were doing out there. The food that grew among such a tangle of grass intrigued me. The most memorable of all is the asparagus. It has been growing there since I can remember, and I’m sure it is still growing there to this day. Sometimes I’d pick the lean stalks and eat them right there, no washing, no cooking. When the backyard became more overgrown, and the garden less tended to, you could still see the little crowns poking up through the mess of weeds, happy as ever.

It’s a bit different here in Reno, but the stuff does grow… very well, actually. It needs a cold/drought season of dormancy in order to successfully produce. Well played, Nevada. It pays to grow it yourself, as well, since the cost of asparagus at the store is pretty insane. Worth it, but insane. I’ve always wondered why it’s so expensive, but thinking about the cultivation process, it makes a lot of sense. Once an asparagus plant goes in the ground, it will not bare an edible crop for at least a whole growing season.

Time investments aside, having my own little plot is sounding pretty enticing… if not for the incredible flavor of fresh asparagus, then certainly for the health benefits– which are numerous to say the least.

Let’s get the obvious green factor out of the way. What do we know is in a green plant? Chlorophyll! And why is that important? Chlorophyll’s porphyrin ring structure is almost identical to that of the heme molecules which carry oxygen through our bloodstreams. The fun doesn’t stop there; at a chlorophyll molecule’s center there sits a magnesium atom. One of magnesium’s major roles in the human body is to keep blood circulating efficiently. It seems safe to say that chlorophyll is pretty darn invaluable to our blood and oxygen circulation, which is very much part of detoxification.

This next little titbit is just as juicy as the last… Prebiotics. Not probiotics, but preeeebiotics. They’re almost like a precursor to probiotics– in that the foods which reside under this title provide the beneficial bacteria in our large intestines with ample sustenance. Asparagus is rich in a nutrient called inulin, a carbohydrate, but not in the classical sense. Inulin, unlike other carbs, makes it’s way  almost to the end of our digestive systems intact, where it is consumed by Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli (our happy little probiotic friends). This is awesome for a lot of reasons, but mainly for digestive and immune health.

Last, but certainly not least, asparagus is SUPER high in vitamin K and folate. Vitamin K is essential for bone health. It effectively “anchors” calcium in to our bones, protecting us from osteoporosis. It also helps to form blood clots so we don’t bleed to death every time we get a little cut. Folate prevents homocysteine (a protein metabolism by-product that, when present in large quantities has been related to elevated risk of heart disease) build-up. It is also a key factor in the development and division of red blood cells.

I feel way better about spending $7 and change on a bunch of asparagus knowing how good it is for me and my family, don’t you? Thought so! Here’s a little more inspiration for you:

 

Broiled Asparagus with Shallots and Hazelnuts

1 bunch asparagus, fibrous stems broken or cut off

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1 small clove garlic, minced

½ tsp. lemon jest

¼ c. hazelnuts, finely chopped

2 tbsp. coconut oil

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Place a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add nuts and toast lightly. Transfer to bowl to cool. Add oil to pan. Once oil is hot, add garlic, shallots, salt and pepper. Cook just until shallot becomes translucent. Remove pan from heat. Arrange asparagus spears on a lined baking sheet and place under broiler on low heat. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, until beginning to brown. Flip, then cook another 2 minutes or until slightly brown. Remove from oven and transfer to serving dish. Spoon shallot mixture over top, then sprinkle hazelnuts and finish with lemon zest. Enjoy warm or cold.

 

Happy asparagus-ing!

 

References:

Mateljan, George. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Seattle, Washington: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007. Print

“Asparagus”. The World’s Healthiest Foods. WHFoods.com. Web. May 29, 2015.

<http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=12>

“Condition Guide: Elevated Homocysteine”. Weil: Andrew Weil, MD. DrWeil.com. Web. May 29, 2015.

<http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03423/Elevated-Homocysteine.html>

“Nevada Crop Harvest Calender”. PickYourOwn.org. Web. May 29, 2015.

<http://www.pickyourown.org/NVharvestcalendar.htm>

 

 

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