’Tis The Season For Asparagus

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - April 19, 2006
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Ed and Janean Baraoidan live with their two children in Manoa Valley. Ed is a licensed stockbroker who has worked as a registered principal in the Honolulu office of Scottrade for the last six years. Prior to joining Scottrade, he had more than seven years of experience working in the stock market. Ed and Janean both earned their B.A. degrees at San Jose State, and Janean is the office manager at the Marine Aquarium Council, a non-profit organization that works to preserve the ocean reefs throughout the Pacific Rim.

In his spare time, Ed enjoys remodeling his Manoa home. He is self-taught, and has just finished remodeling a bathroom and is now ready to start on the kitchen. Janean and Ed have two young sons, Finnley, age 7, who attends the Hawaii Baptist Academy, and Owen, who has just turned the ripe old age of 1 month. Although they are not getting much sleep these days with a newborn in the house, they are a truly happy couple enjoying both their work and their family. This column is dedicated to the Baraoidan family.

Just in time for asparagus season, try this healthy salad as an accompaniment to seafood or poultry.

Asparagus is believed to have been cultivated in ancient Egypt, and is valued for its medicinal properties. Today the principal producers of asparagus are the United States, Europe, Mexico and Taiwan.

Asparagus is actually a young edible shoot which grows from an underground stem called a crown. This crown is capable of producing asparagus shoots or spears for 15 or more years. Most asparagus is harvested in spring and available in abundance from March to late June.

There are more than 300 varieties of asparagus, of which only about 20 are edible. These are classified as three main categories:

* Green asparagus. This is the most common type and harvested when it is about 8 inches in length.

* White asparagus. This type is grown in the dark and covered with soil to keep it from turning green. White asparagus is harvested as soon as it emerges from the ground. It is more tender, but less flavorful than the green variety, and more expensive.

* Purple asparagus. This type has a fruity flavor and is harvested when it is only about 3 inches in length.

When purchasing, choose crisp, green stalks and compact, bright-colored tips that have no unpleasant odor.

Asparagus is very perishable.

Wrapped in a damp cloth and kept in a perforated bag in the refrigerator, it should keep for two to three days. Asparagus may also be frozen if blanched and kept in freezer bags; it will keep for about nine months if properly frozen.

Avoid overcooking as it causes the asparagus to lose flavor. Cut off the tough ends of the stalks and peel if desired.

The best cooking methods are steaming and microwaving; asparagus is ready when the stalks are tender, but still firm. Asparagus is an excellent source of folic acid and contains vita-min C, potassium, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin A, iron, phosphorous and zinc. Asparagus contains a sulfurous substance which imparts an odor to urine. It is said to be diuretic and laxative.


* 1 pound fresh asparagus, trim off tough ends and cut into 2-inch pieces, or use 11/2 (10 -ounce) packages frozen cut asparagus, thawed
* 1 medium Maui onion, diced
* 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed well and drained
* 2 firm vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced thin
* 1 can mandarin oranges, drained
* 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
* 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* salt and pepper, to taste
* romaine lettuce leaves
* grated Parmesan, for garnish

Cook fresh asparagus in microwave or steamer, or thaw frozen asparagus and drain well. Combine with beans, add onion and toss.

Mix yogurt, cheese, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper and stir until combined.

Add more seasoning to taste. Place lettuce leaves on six plates and arrange asparagus mixture on lettuce. Arrange tomato slices and mandarin oranges on top. Drizzle with yogurt mixture, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Makes four servings.

Approximate Nutrition Information Per Serving:

Calories: 110 Fat: 2 grams Cholesterol: 2 milligrams Sodium: 73 milligrams

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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