Tall, dark spears

June sales splash asparagus onto the front page of grocery flyers. Asparagus, the aristocrat of greens, is in the middle of its peak season. Since these bunches are in season, I decided to go to York’s.

When produce is in season, I like to check them out in a local market instead of importing what Ontario already supplies, and York’s is a modest treasure among the storehouses of grocery chains in the neighbourhood. I think that when it comes to deciding when to buy local and organic–especially when the quality asks for a higher price–is to do so occasionally. The freshness is worth it. I’ve found that large-stemmed vegetables like asparagus and brocolli tend to be more tough and chewy at grocery chains, and the floret heads have a dull colour. Bigger and cheaper is not always better! If you’re going to get some asparagus, look for ones with a deeper colour and compact tips. And just like you’d look at the bottom of the cut stems for brocolli and Chinese gai-lan, make sure that they’re not dry or yellowing. It wasn’t difficult to find a healthy looking bunch of asparagus, though I was hoping to come across white asparagus.

I’m not sure how we’re going to cook the asparagus tonight, but the vendor suggested to simply steam it with some salt and olive oil. Asparagus doesn’t take that long too cook, especially if you are preparing it with heat and water (2-4 minutes if boiling, 4-8 if steaming, 5-7 if stir-frying, 8-10 if sitting in the oven), and you’d want to maintain the crispness of the stalk.

Asparagus can be avoided because if overcooked, they’re limp-looking and sort slouch on the plate. And if undercooked, there’s fear that it’ll make your pee smelly. What’s in the spear? Along with vitamins and minerals in asparagus, there are also sulfur compounds and amino acids that emit a smell when heated.. Hence with your digestive system working at the asparagus tips you just ate, the result may be a foul-smelling flush. But you might be among the luckier half of the population whose digestive tract either does not break down the smelly compounds, or doesn’t have the olfactory gene to pick up on this particular odour! Call it a desirable weirdness.

Anyways, I see that this post has taken a slight diversion from my original intent to attract you to this vegetable… Just don’t stay too long in the washroom after you’ve eaten the asparagus (although by mere mention of it, I’m sure that many will). Go back to the kitchen; stay with your dinner companions.


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