Every year I look forward to making the pilgrimage to my sister’s home in the woods, where we pick the sprigs from her asparagus patch. Usually we sit on the sun porch and breakfast on the crispy, green stems straight from the ground, letting hunger be our seasoning. Eaten freshly harvested, asparagus tastes similar to snap peas and can be quite addictive. Asparagus is brimming with B-vitamins that energize and protect your heart and brain. It also boasts five grams of vegetarian protein, vitamin C, fiber and tissue-repairing manganese and iron.
A mature asparagus plot is effortless to grow, and a small patch can easily fill your family’s dinner plates during the early summer season. If you can’t grow your own, it is important to know where your asparagus comes from, as it is often grown commercially with chemicals. Your local farmers’ market is a great spot to buy it because the farmer will pick it only hours earlier, letting you enjoy its delicate fresh flavour. In the spring, you can find local organic asparagus grown by farmers like the Mazak family.
If you have a chance to buy it fresh, enjoy it raw! If the asparagus is older, then briefly steaming or blanching it will help bring out its amazing vitality.
Here are five health benefits of asparagus:
1. Supports healthy bones: Asparagus is high in vitamin K. Vitamin K is well known for its importance as a major blood-clotting factor, but it is also necessary for bone mineralization, cell growth and tissue renewal. New studies indicate its synergistic partnership with vitamin D in promoting bone health!
2. Promotes healthy skin: Six spears of asparagus contain 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant in the body that can protect the skin against sun damage. Vitamin A also reduces the production of sebum from the pores and prevents acne breakouts due to oily skin and blockages.
3. High in thiamine: This B vitamin is a fundamental component of proper brain and liver function. A diet that is low in thiamine can result in Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which presents itself as mental confusion, tremors and even hallucinations. Frequent alcohol consumption is commonly associated with a thiamine deficiency, as it drastically depletes these vitamin stores.
4. High in potassium: Potassium is a much-needed electrolyte that the nervous and circulatory systems use to conduct electrical impulses and maintain water balance in the body. Potassium is necessary to maintain normal blood pressure and is especially important to those who suffer from hypertension.
5. High in antioxidants: Asparagus contains two classes of antioxidants called phenolics and flavanoids. These powerful antioxidants have the ability to scavenge free radicals in the body as well as the blood stream, preventing cholesterol build-up and protecting the heart and arterial walls from damage.
Asparagus and salmon rolls
Salmon is one of the richest sources of omega 3 fats, best known for reducing inflammation, boosting mood and improving memory and concentration. Salmon also contains nerve-relaxing tryptophan, which assures a good night sleep.
1 bunch thin local asparagus, cut in half
1 medium lemon
1 tbsp all-natural healthy mayonnaise i.e. Veganaise
2 tbsp mustard
140g smoked salmon (sugar free)
1/2 cup fresh chives or dill springs
12 rice paper rounds
1 cup basil leaves
1.5 cups pea or sunflower sprouts
1. Partially fill a large frying pan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil asparagus until tender-crisp, about two minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water to stop cooking. In a small bowl, place 1 tbsp lemon juice, then stir in mayo and mustard.
2. Fill a pie plate with lukewarm water and place beside a clean cutting board. Line up smoked salmon, mayo mixture, asparagus and greens near the cutting board. Dip one rice-paper round at a time into water and leave until very pliable, about 30 seconds. Gently lay wet rice wrap against a towel to dry and then lay on cutting board. Place a slice of salmon along the bottom third of round. Spread a teaspoon of mayo mixture over salmon. Place two asparagus spears with the tips in opposite directions and lay on top of the salmon. Top with chives, basil and sprouts.
3. Lift rice paper edge closest to you up and over filling, then roll tightly toward the centre. When you reach the centre, fold in sides. Continue rolling to form a log. Set roll, seam-side down, on a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients. As soaking water cools, replace with lukewarm water. Slice rolls in half diagonally to serve right away or leave whole and refrigerate up to four hours.
Makes 12 rolls
Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her soon-to-be-published first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free foods that both taste great and assist the body in the healing process.
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