Asparagus has often been praised as one of the most refined and delicious vegetables. Asparagus is a member of the lily family and a distant relative of onions. The cultivars range in colour from dark to light green through to violet and white. White asparagus have a milder flavour than the green asparagus and are more popular in Europe. In it’s growing stages, the stems are heaped with sandy soil to block out sunlight, preventing the chlorophyll to develop. The purple asparagus, less fibrous and higher in sugar is becoming more available at specialty food markets.
Asparagus botanical name “Asparagus Officinalis” means “from the dispensery“. It was a favourite among the Romans for it’s medicinal virtues and was used as a diuretic and a laxative. It was also thought to help with toothache, cramps and sciatica. Asparagus contains asparagine, an essential amino acid and the first to be isolated from it’s natural source early in the nineteenth century. Asparagine is also a diuretic that gives the urine a characteristic odor in people who lack the gene to break it down. This was first recorded in eighteenth-century Britain by Queen Anne’s physician!
Asparagus has remarkable immune-strengthening, antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties due to the bioflavonoids rutin and glutathione. It is high in protein, an excellent source of potassium, vitamin K, folic acid, vitamins C and A, riboflavin, thiamine, and B6.
In traditional Chinese medicine, asparagus are said to be a cooling yin tonic that energizes the kidneys, lungs and spleen. It also helps to dispel heat, damp and water.
In Ayurvedic, Asian asparagus are used for strengthening female hormones, promoting fertility, increasing lactation, and relieving menstrual pain. ~Shatavari is the Indian name and it means : she who possesses a hundred husbands.
The young stems of asparagus are preferably steamed, grilled or quickly boiled and served with butter, vinaigrette or hollandaise sauce. Asparagus pairs well with goat cheese, parmesan and pecorino cheeses, chervil, omelets, lemon, olive oil, shallots, pancetta, tarragon, and, white wine.
Asparagus, Lemon and Wild Rice Salad
This salad is a great way to signal that spring is here. The mung beans, wild rice and asparagus create a flavour that is both earthy and delicate while the lemon zest enliven the dish. Wild rice is very high in protein, minerals, and B vitamins. The small khaki Mung beans are the perfect beans for Spring; easily digestible, they are beneficial for the liver and gall bladder and detoxifies the body.
1 pound asparagus
2 cups steamed wild rice ~I used a blend of red rice, quinoa and wild rice
1 cup cooked mung beans~ you can cook the mung beans with the rice, add a little more water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoon finally chopped green onions or spring onions
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
Unrefined sea salt
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Making the dressing:
Whisk together green onion, lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl; season with pepper. Whisking constantly, pour in oil in a slow, steady stream; whisk until emulsified. Set aside.
Making the salad:
1.Snap of the tough ends of the asparagus. Cut the asparagus into 2 inch long pieces. Drop them into boiling salted water and cook for 1 minute, or until bright green and tender but still a bit firm. Rinse under cold water and drain well.
2.Combine the asparagus, wild rice, parsley, mung beans, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
3.Pour over the dressing and toss to combine.Adjust salt and pepper.
4.Line a serving platter with greens and put the rice salad on top.