The start of spring speaks to all of our senses. The call of peepers in the marshes, the squishy mud under our boots, the first bright red buds on maple trees and that iconic “spring” smell signal warmer weather on the way. But for me, spring has finally sprung when I take that first bite of tender, grassy asparagus.
Even before we realized that asparagus was a culinary treat, ancient people used it medicinally. Ancient Greeks used it to treat bee stings and toothaches; Chinese herbalists treated arthritis with dried asparagus-root tea, possibly since its high level of asparagusic acid is a diuretic and can ease swelling. The bright green stalks are also high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber and vitamins A, B6 and C.
Thick or thin, asparagus can make an array of tasty side dishes using a variety of cooking methods. Grilled bundles of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto look fancy but are an easy side for entertaining. Curry butter gives an aromatic accent to sautéed asparagus. Toss lightly steamed asparagus with crunchy radishes and a gingery sauce or top roasted asparagus with a Caesar-inspired sauce. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a patch in your backyard, grab a bunch from the farmers’ market and celebrate spring’s fresh flavor.