We tell you how to use one of the typical spring vegetables in the kitchen. Precious and very widespread in world where excellences are cultivated, when brought to the table it immediately becomes the protagonist.
Green, white and violet: the colors of asparagus
The color is due to an accentuated presence of chlorophyll, as this vegetable grows on the surface, out of the ground, in contact with sunlight. This type is the most widespread and is the one in which the characteristic herbaceous taste of the vegetable is most distinguished. An excellence is represented by the asparagus d’Altedo IGP, in Emilia Romagna (near Bologna). Being a Protected Geographical Indication product, these asparagus must have certain organoleptic characteristics, certified by a disciplinary.
the white color is given by the fact that this variety is grown underground. Remaining completely in the dark, the shoot does not absorb sunlight and therefore chlorophyll photosynthesis cannot take place. The flavor of this asparagus is thus more delicate than the green one. It is a variety that is grown and consumed mainly in Veneto, since the time of the Serenissima. Particular features of the soil and microclimate mean that practically every Venetian province, from Vicenza to Treviso, has a local type of asparagus. We can identify three particularly valuable, two IGP and one DOC: the white asparagus of Cimadolmo IGP, widespread in the Treviso area, on the left bank of the Piave, (characterized by an alluvial soil due to the flooding of the river) which has no shade of color and is completely white; the white asparagus of Badoere PGI (which is also green, always with the PGI certification), from the provinces of Treviso, Padua and Venice, has a pinkish white color and a sweet and aromatic flavor. Finally, the white asparagus of Bassano PDO, in the Vicenza area, is the only one to have the Protected Designation of Origin. According to the specification, it must be “white in color, have a length between 18 and 22 cm and a minimum central diameter of 11 mm, well-formed, straight, whole shoots with a tight apex, tender and non-woody, with a fresh appearance and smell. “.
they are asparagus with white shoots, grown with a partial spill from the soil. In this way the sun’s rays hit a good part of it, giving rise to the characteristic color. They are a very common variety in the Neapolitan area, even if the most famous with this color is undoubtedly the violet asparagus of Albenga, in Liguria, a Slow Food Presidium for being a unique type in the world. As Monica Maroglio, Slow Food director of the Presidium explains, these vegetables are called the ” vegetable of the Saints“, as their harvest takes place from March 19 (San Giuseppe) to June 24 (San Giovanni). Their main characteristic, in addition to the intense purple color, is the impossibility they have to hybridize with other varieties, as Albenga asparagus genetically has 40 chromosomes compared to 20 of all other asparagus, and has a soft and buttery flavor, very delicate.
2- They contain a lot of fibers. According to data from the Humanitas Institute, 2.1 in 100 g of asparagus are fiber. They are very important because they promote a good functioning of the intestine, thus reducing the possibility of colon cancer. Furthermore, the presence of fiber keeps cholesterol and blood sugar levels under control.
3- They are diuretics. Rich in potassium and low in sodium, they are considered allies to purify oneself, as they promote diuresis. For this reason it is recommended to avoid its consumption if you are taking drugs that perform the same function.
4- They are low in calories. The caloric intake of this vegetable is about 25 calories per 100 grams.
How to choose and store asparagus
Even the cooked asparagus can store in the refrigerator, but they last much less: a maximum of 2 days if properly placed in a tightly sealed glass container with the cap or transparent plastic wrap. If you have cooked them in large quantities, then freeze them, following this procedure: after having dabbed them to remove excess water and let them cool to room temperature, place them on a tray lined with parchment paper, well separated from each other and placed in the freezer until freezing. At this point, transfer them to a special bag to be frozen: they can last up to two months.
Use in the kitchen: practical advice
In the first case, using a potato peeler, peel the asparagus in the lower half, as it can be very stringy, even if it is not a mandatory operation. You can prepare them boiled, using or not the special pot, or the asparagus: it is a casserole with high sides that allows the bunch of asparagus to cook vertically, so as not to boil the tips, which are the noblest parts. , and keep them tastier and crunchy. It will take 8-10 minutes. Otherwise, steam: cooking technique that allows you to better preserve the nutritional properties of the asparagus.
If used in pieces, however, the stem is reduced to washers, while the tips can be left whole or cut in half or quarters, depending on their size. One of our recipes that fully enhances asparagus is that of risotto: a tasty and refined first course in which all the edible parts of this vegetable are enhanced.
To keep in mind: the asparagus absorbs a lot of the seasoning, so it would be better to opt for a balanced amount of the latter. Although many traditional recipes of Northern Italy, such as the classic Milanese “asparagus and eggs in cereghin “, contemplate an abundant use of butter, for the healthiest possible consumption of this vegetable the ideal choice is to use extra virgin olive oil. olive or lemon. Asparagus also lends itself to contamination with the East: therefore also sesame oil or soy sauce should be tried.
Asparagus + tomatoes: it is undoubtedly a more popular combination, but one that gives great satisfaction. You can never go wrong with peeled tomatoes. An example? Our recipe for pasta with asparagus, a super delicious first course.
Asparagus + cured meats: from pancetta to guanciale, we can therefore imagine a combination reminiscent of carbonara enriched with this vegetable. Or a simple and tasty risotto like our risotto with asparagus and pancetta.
Asparagus + ricotta + bottarga: three ingredients that complement each other in flavors, for a truly appetizing taste. It can be used as a condiment for pasta, focaccia or “gourmet” pizza. Otherwise, you can think of preparing an easy recipe for an aperitif: a quality toasted bread with asparagus boiled and cut into pieces with oil, Maldon salt, a drop of balsamic vinegar, plus a good ricotta (sheep, goat, buffalo or cow), and the final bottarga. Ricotta can also be replaced with mozzarella or stracciatella.
Asparagus + onions: either with white, golden or red ones. The combination lends itself to creative preparations. For example, a reinterpretation of the French soupe à l’oignon , where asparagus is added alongside the onion. Or as a base for a spicy chutney, with red onion, chopped asparagus, apple cider vinegar, sugar, cumin, chilli, salt and oil. Perfect in combination with cheeses such as robiola, red and white meats or salmon.
Asparagus + chocolate: with a bitter cocoa or dark chocolate, the combination is “tough”, but not prohibitive, as it is also true for other vegetables such as artichoke or aubergine. You can sauté the asparagus in a pan with cocoa (preferably the one without milk) and then enrich it with a crumble, serving it as a dessert.
History, characteristics and cultivation
It must be said that their cultivation is not simple, as first of all it requires a soil that is favorable, that is draining and, secondly, they must be picked as soon as the tip of the shoot appears, which has an overall length of about 20 cm. As reported by Coldiretti, in fact, if you wait for the latter to grow further, you get a thickening of the bark and the consequent reduction of the edibility and pleasantness of the food.