Asparagus is a sure sign of spring. This perennial plant produces flavourful spears that are high in folate, fiber, and Vitamins A, C and K. The spears that are harvested are immature ferns. At the height of the season, spears can grow two inches per day! In addition to its nutritional value, asparagus is one of the “15 Clean List” of fruits and vegetables that are very low in pesticides according to the Environmental Working Group in the US. Numerous international studies have indicated that asparagus has an enzyme that helps breakdown malathion which is pesticide often used to control beetles. Even when pesticides were used on asparagus, when analyzed the vegetable showed only 2% residue. To further reduce pesticide exposure, remove 2 inches from the base of spear. If you grow your own, buy organic or buy locally when in season, asparagus is a healthy and delicious vegetable.
Asparagus can be preserved in several ways. If you are using it within a few days, wrap the vegetable in a damp towel and place in a breathable bag away from meat, poultry and fish. To freeze, blanche the washed and trimmed stalks for 2 to 4 minutes depending on the size of the stalks. Blanching is necessary to preserve colour and texture. Place the drained vegetable in a freezer container or bag and label. Asparagus can also be dehydrated after blanching at 125 until completely dried and crisp. For long-term storage, asparagus may be pressure canned or pickled. I especially like to have pickled asparagus on hand for snacking or to add to a charcuterie board or antipasto plate.
Time to enjoy spring’s gift of asparagus any way you want. Fresh or preserved, asparagus is a healthy addition to the kitchen and pantry.
For further information:
- 7 lb asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into 4-inch lengths to fit into a wide-mouth canning jar. Bernardin recommends placing the asparagus in a pan and covering with ice water for 1 hour to help maintain the crispness of the vegetable. Drain.
- 12 sprigs fresh dill
- 6 cloves of garlic peeled
- 2 tsp pickling spice
- 4 tsp crushed dried hot pepper
- ½ cup pickling salt
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 5 cups white vinegar (5%)
- 1 litre water
- Note: Ball suggests it is optional to add 1/8 tsp “Pickle Crisp” to each jar if desired.
Make the brine: Combine vinegar, water, sugar, pickling salt, hot pepper and pickling spice in a large pot and bring to a boil stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.
Into 6 hot, 500ml mason jars, add 2 dill sprigs and one garlic clove. Tightly pack asparagus into the jars. Ladle brine into jars. Remove air bubbles and adjust brine leaving a ½ headspace. Wipe the rims, place lids on and secure the rings to “finger-tip tight”. Process jars for 10 minutes in a water-bath or steam canner. Let rest for 5 minutes. Remove and let jars cool.