Healthy and Seasonal Eating This Spring: Asparagus

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With spring approaching, I tend to think more about healthy eating. After a long, cold winter of craving steaming bowls of soup and buttery rolls on the side, I find myself ready for something light and refreshing. The best way to get into the spirit of the new season is to eat the food that is in season.

One of my favorite spring vegetables is asparagus. It is naturally fat free and it's also low in calories and sodium. In most areas, the harvest begins in mid to late April. It can be eaten raw, or you may choose cook it using various methods. We will discuss some of these methods later on.

You may be wondering how to select asparagus at the market. The freshest stems are firm and you want the tips to be tight. They come in various sizes, from very thin to thick spears. The thin asparagus will cook through faster but the thicker ones are more tender. You will need to select based on the method you choose to prepare them. Regardless of size, be sure to wash them thoroughly and snap the ends off before you do anything else.

If you choose to have raw asparagus, select thick spears and use a vegetable peeler to first peel the skin off. Then use the same peeler to make thin slices. Toss the asparagus with a great extra virgin olive oil and rich balsamic vinegar. All you need is to season it with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and you have a great side for dinner.

Most people choose to cook asparagus. You have so many options here, from a quick saute to oven roasting to grilled. My personal favorite for all year round is roasting it, keeping it simple once again with olive oil, salt, and pepper. However, with warmer weather comes grilling weather. If you choose thin asparagus for this process, be sure to put down aluminum foil or you may lose some stems before you finish!

Asparagus is a very versatile vegetable and one of my personal favorites. I hope that if you haven't yet taken the time to try it in the past that you will take the opportunity to do so this spring!

Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, "Questions About Asparagus", http://www.asparagus.com

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