Asparagus

Asparagus originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and was a favourite of the Greeks and Romans who used it as a medicine.

In parts of Europe, Turkey, Africa, Middle East and Asia, varieties of asparagus grow wild.

In some countries people prefer to eat white asparagus (it stays white because it is grown covered in soil), but New Zealanders like it green and there is little, if any, white asparagus grown here. Purple asparagus is increasingly available in New Zealand.

What to look for

Choose straight firm green stems. Insist on fresh, clean product with trimmed ends and a minimum of white butt. Fresh asparagus is ‘squeaky’ – when the spears are gently rubbed they squeak; old asparagus is rubbery and doesn’t squeak.

Availability

September, October, November, December.

Note: supplies are sometimes available earlier or later depending on the season.

Store

Keep asparagus refrigerated with butt ends either wrapped in wet paper towels, stand up in a jar with 1-2 cm of water (like flowers in a vase), or alternatively wash, then refrigerate in plastic bags.

How to prepare

Snap or slice off tough ends. These ends can used to flavour soups or stocks. Cooked asparagus should be tender but slightly crisp. For maximum flavour, don’t overcook. Asparagus for use in salads is generally blanched, however, if the asparagus is thin and fresh it can be used raw. Purple asparagus is often eaten raw as it is sweeter and more tender than green. To retain the purple colour, add a little lemon juice or vinegar when cooking and cook for a very short time using a method such as stir frying.

Ways to eat

Lightly steam, stir fry, microwave, boil, bake or barbecue asparagus. Serve asparagus with hollandaise or aioli, or use in soups, quiches, pies, salads, stir fries, or eat with fresh bread.

Cooking Methods

Boil, braise, char grill/barbecue, microwave, roast, steam, stir fry.

Nutrition

ASPARAGUS
Steamed, drained, combined cultivars
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 5 spears 78g
  Average
Quantity
per serving 
% Daily
intake per
serve 
Average
Quantity
per 100g 
 
Energy (kJ/Cal) 87/21 1% 111/27  
Protein (g) 2.8 5.60% 3.56  
Fat, total (g) 0.23 0.03% 0.3  
 - saturated (g) 0.052 0.02% 0.067  
Carbohydrate (g) 1.25 0.04% 1.61  
 - sugars (g) 1.25 1.70% 1.6  
Dietary fibre (g) 1.2 4% 1.5  
Sodium (mg) 1.56 0.01% 2  
Folate (µg) 67.86 33.9 RDI* 87 A good source of Folate
Vitamin C (mg) 3.9 12.5% RDI* 5 A source of Vitamin C
Riboflavin (mg) 0.17 10% RDI* 0.22 A source of Riboflavin
Potassium (mg) 206.7   265 Contains Potassium
Niacin (mg) 0.69 8.8% RDI* 0.88  
Vitamin E (mg) 0.84 8.4% RDI* 1.08  
Thiamin (mg) 0.08 7.2% RDI* 0.1  
Vitamin A Equiv. (µg) 52.88 7.1% RDI* 67.8  
Iron (mg) 0.47 3.9% RDI* 0.6  
Zinc (mg) 0.47 3.9% RDI* 0.6  
Selenium (µg) 2.18 3.1% RDI* 2.8  
Calcium (mg) 14.82 1.8% RDI* 19  
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.008 0.05% RDI* 0.01  

Percentage Daily Intakes are based on an average adult diet of 8700 kJ
Your daily Intakes may be higher or lower depending on your energy needs.
*Recommended Dietary Intake (Average Adult)

Source: The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables, 10th Edition, Plant & Food Research - 2014

Asparagus is one of the highest vegetable sources of folate and is also a source of riboflavin, vitamin C plus contains a dietary significant amount of potassium. Asparagus contains a range of phytonutrients, particularly from the phenolic and carotenoid groups.

Retailing

Asparagus is one of the most highly perishable vegetables so special care must be taken. Make sure displays contain only crisp snappy spears. Discard any limp or damaged spears. Display with butt ends on wet foam pads as the butt end must be kept wet to avoid dehydration. Trim butt ends daily to maintain a fresh crisp product. Bring out only what is required for display and replenish the display from the chiller. It is better to keep the display relatively small and keep restocking it. Return unsold stock to the chiller at the end of the day. Use QR code on labels.

Store at 2-4ºC with approximately 95% relative humidity. Asparagus has a high water content and will lose water if stored in a dry environment. Store with butt ends on wet foam pads. Asparagus is ethylene sensitive so store separately from ethylene producing produce.

Purchase asparagus with the New Zealand GAP logo.

Recipes

Red capsicum and asparagus salad
Red capsicum and asparagus salad

The colour of these vegetables make a great looking salad and the hint of mustard adds a zing to the dressing. View Recipe

Courgette and sprout stir fry
Courgette and sprout stir fry

The sprouts in this wonderfully easy stir fry give a lovely nutty flavour and texture. View Recipe

Easy brunch
Easy brunch

Nothing more delicious for an easy weekend brunch than fresh asparagus. View Recipe

View more Recipes

Images

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