Springtime means some fresh crops of healthy vegetables are growing, and asparagus is one of them. A member of the Lilly family, this is a great vegetable.
There are about 150 species of asparagus, but the most common in the US is Asparagus Officinalis. Many of my favorite restaurants celebrate the return of asparagus with the white asparagus (which is grown by keeping the plants from getting all but UV light). I remember well, picking wild asparagus from the roadsides in Illinois; there was nothing fresher.
Asparagus has a long medical history- even in the second century it was described as a cleansing (probably because it is a mild diuretic) and healing properties. It has been touted as a cure for cancer (it isn’t) to its anti-oxidant properties (see my previous post about anti-oxidants).
Some of the good things in asparagus are: 1) about half a dozen contain 50% of the daily recommended dose of folate; 2) it contains rutin, which may be an anti-inflammatory useful in fighting plaque in blood vessels (not proven, but interesting theory); 3) it contains some amino acids – which form the basis for proteins; 4) it contains glutathione, cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine.
I must confess that until this last year I didn’t even think about eating asparagus, and then I tried it, and loved it once again.
So — asparagus is in season– and here are some easy things you can do with it that are so basic, even this busy surgeon can eat them.
First, know that there is a woody end to the asparagus and you have to get rid of it. No matter how much you try to cook them, this part of the asparagus is more useful for making clothing or shelter, than it is for eating.
Second, the key to asparagus is that it is tender and delicate, so don’t over cook it. There are six simple methods for cooking it– and they are all pretty easy.
Boil the water in a medium sauce pan – add a pinch of salt and one T of olive oil (whenever I see boiling water I think of the old western movies where someone was giving birth and the doctor or midwife would tell the husband – “we need hot water, and lots of it.”) It takes four minutes to boil asparagus. However, I prefer less time.
In a medium sauce pan with water, salt, and olive oil- bring to a boil. Add the asparagus until it is tender, or about two minutes.
I like cookware. And, there are a lot of great steamers made just for asparagus. Asparagus needs to be steamed in the rack about one inch above the boiling water until just crisp – which is about four minutes.
Put the asparagus in a large ziploc bag. Add some olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, and mix together until coated. Place on a baking sheet at 500 degrees for about 2 minutes. Turn once – and bake another two minutes. The asparagus should be tender.
You can grill like I do on a big outdoor grill — which always raises my testosterone. You can also grill them over a gas grill on your stove. Brush the asparagus with olive oil, on medium high heat, turning once. This method takes about five to seven minutes.
My favorite way to prepare the asparagus, or most food really, is Sous Vide. Coat the asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place in the sealed bag. Keep in a water bath at 183-185 degrees for 40 minutes to one hour.
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.