Asparagus

Spear facts

• More than 95% of Australia’s asparagus is grown in Victoria.

• Australian asparagus has a reputation for being 100% clean, green and safe. Add to that its luscious eating quality and you have an amazing product that is not only attractive to Aussie home cooks and chefs, but is also highly valued on global markets.

• Most of the Australian asparagus crop (70%) is consumed on the domestic market and 30% of Australian asparagus is exported.

• The growing, harvesting and packing of asparagus are extremely labour intensive processes. Each spear needs to be harvested by hand when it’s at just the right length. To maximise freshness, harvesting is done on a daily basis in the early hours of the morning with packing on the same day.

Season availability

• Australian asparagus is available from September to March, however the main production is during September, October and November.

• When Australian asparagus is out of season, or when supplies are limited (such as at the beginning and end of the season) asparagus is imported to supplement local supplies and satisfy consumer demand.

Selecting asparagus

• When selecting asparagus look for firm, bright, smooth, spears of uniform size with closed, compact tips.

• When you snap fresh asparagus, it should be crisp, moist and juicy.

Storing asparagus

• Did you know that freshly harvested asparagus is very similar to cut flowers? It needs to be kept in cool, humid conditions.

• One way to keep asparagus fresher for longer is to wrap it in a damp tea towel, pop it in a plastic bag and store it in the crisper compartment of your refrigerator.

• Another way is to stand the fresh spears upright in a container with 1cm cold water, cover and store it in the refrigerator.

Preparing asparagus

• Simply snap off the woody ends with your forefinger and thumb. Alternatively, run a knife along the stalk until it meets less resistance, and then cut the end off at this point.

• Asparagus can be served both raw and cooked – try it fresh in salads and salsas as well as in an endless variety of cooked dishes.

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Spearheading health

Asparagus has an abundance of nutrition packed into every spear. Glenn Cardwell, an accredited practising dietitian with over 35 years experience working with the food industry and fresh produce, has provided these facts.

• Asparagus is low in kilojoules, and contains no fat or cholesterol, whilst providing fibre. That makes it a must for any diet, including a weight loss diet.

• Why take a supplement when asparagus can provide us with essential nutrients like the essential B group vitamins folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and biotin, along with vitamin C?

• Asparagus is a great source of folate, with one serve providing over 20% of our daily needs. Folate is important for expectant mothers for the healthy development of the baby during pregnancy.

• It’s not only fruit that gives us vitamin C. One serve of asparagus provides about 25% of our daily needs of vitamin C. Did you know that vitamin C helps us to absorb adequate iron from our diet?

• Asparagus has a brilliant range of bioactive compounds, such as antioxidants like rutin and beta-carotene, which help keep us healthy, well into old age.

 

The Australian Asparagus Council has created a Go Aussie Spears e-cookbook bursting with recipes, tips and ideas to get everyone cooking with fresh Aussie spears.  You will find details of it here.

We’ve been busy in the kitchen at Second Helping too, and have come up with few recipes of our own which you can check out.

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