Asparagus is one of the first vegetables that humans cultivated, believed to have been first grown by the Macedonians in approximately 200 B.C. Asparagus appears in Egyptian tomb drawings as early as 4000 B.C.
Ancient Greeks and Romans used it for medicinal purposes; the Greeks believing it could cure almost any illness. Conquering Romans brought it with them throughout Europe. King Louis XIV ordered greenhouses built for it to suit his lover’s belief that it improved his sexual prowess. It came to the Americas from Europe and has entrenched itself both in the wild and in our gardens.
Packed with minerals and vitamins, asparagus is a powerhouse among vegetables, delivering a more complete balance of nutrients than any other. It has vitamins A, B6 and C, with iron, potassium, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin in abundance. It is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates,contains no fat, no cholesterol and has only 20 calories per ½-cup serving.
A serving also provides more folic acid and glutathione than any other vegetable. A single serving of asparagus has more than half the recommended daily allowance of the folic acid needed for blood cell formation, prevention of liver disease and decreased risk of neural tube birth defects. Studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute found glutathione, a potent cancer-fighting agent, to be higher in asparagus than any other food tested.
And if you are not convinced yet, it is delicious. Asparagus is also versatile. It can be served hot or cold, steamed, baked, grilled, sauteed, and even raw. Eat your asparagus! Here is a little recipe to get you started…
Sauteed Chicken Cutlets
Chef Mark Tadros, Foster Farms
12 baby artichokes (cut in half and steamed until tender)
8 thin sliced chicken breast cutlets
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups spring onions (sliced with dark green parts removed)
3 cups asparagus tips
2 teaspoons paprika
1 cup Chardonnay Velouté Sauce (recipe follows)
Preboil baby artichokes and set aside for later use.
Sprinkle chicken lightly with salt and pepper. In large skillet, heat olive oil and cook chicken until lightly browned and internal temperature reaches 160°F.
Remove chicken from skillet and set aside. Add butter and onions and sauté until onions become soft. Add asparagus, baby artichokes and sprinkle with paprika. Sprinkle additional salt and pepper and sauté for about 1 minute.
Add Chardonnay Velouté Sauce and chicken back to skillet and bring mixture to boil before serving. Yields 4 servings.
Chardonnay Veloute Sauce
2 cups chardonnay wine
1 cup chicken stock (low sodium broth can be substituted)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
In large saucepan, reduce white wine until 2 cups reach 1/2 cup. Add chicken stock and bring mixture to a simmer.
In separate saucepan, make roux by melting butter over low heat and adding flour. Raise heat to medium and stir butter and flour together for about 4 minutes until it turns a blonde color.
Slowly whisk roux into simmering stock; continue to heat and whisk thoroughly. When stock begins to simmer, turn heat to low and cook until sauce thickens. Depending on your stovetop, sauce may take 5-10 minutes to reach desired consistency.