SOURCE: California Asparagus Commission

April 11, 2011 05:00 ET

Ah, Asparagus!

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Apr 11, 2011) - (Family Features) For food lovers, the arrival of spring means the arrival of fresh asparagus. This versatile vegetable can be steamed, simmered, boiled, grilled, roasted, sautéed -- it can be enjoyed in just about any way imaginable.

Naturally low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, cholesterol and sodium, asparagus is widely recognized as a "Super Food" -- an excellent source of folate, vitamin C, thiamine, and vitamin B6 and an important source of micro-nutrients, as well. Asparagus is also high in rutin which may strengthen blood vessels.

The California Asparagus Commission has these tips for choosing and storing your delicious asparagus:

How to Buy Asparagus

  • Figure a pound of asparagus -- about 12 to 15 spears 9 to 10 inches long and 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick -- per 3 to 4 people.
  • Select plump straight spears with firm tips and smooth, tender skin.
  • Look for compact and tightly closed tips.
  • Stem ends should be white or light-colored with woody bottoms only a fraction of the total length.
  • Be aware that large asparagus can be as tender as smaller sizes, if not more so.
  • Give a bunch a squeeze. If it squeaks you know it's fresh.

How to Store Asparagus

  • Trim stems. Refrigerate upright standing in an inch of water. Loosely cover with plastic.
  • Or wrap the cut ends in damp paper towel and then refrigerate asparagus in an open plastic bag. Refresh asparagus tips by soaking in cold water.

For more information and recipes, visit www.calasparagus.com.

Super Foods Salad with Chive Vinaigrette
Makes 4 main dish servings

8cups mixed salad greens, in small pieces
1pound salmon fillet, poached
1 1/2cups fresh asparagus, par-boiled or steamed, sliced diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1cup fresh blueberries
1/2cup almonds or walnuts, chopped, toasted
Lemon zest to garnish
Vinaigrette
2tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2cup olive oil
2tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1tablespoon fresh chives

Spread salad greens into large salad bowl. Tear salmon into medium pieces and arrange on greens. Sprinkle asparagus, blueberries and chopped nuts throughout the bowl. Top with lemon zest.

In a jar with a lid, add all vinaigrette ingredients. Shake well. Stir 1/2 to 3/4 of the dressing into the bowl. Plate individual salads chilled with the remaining dressing alongside.

Nutrients per serving: calories 493, calories from fat 315, fat 35 g, saturated fat 5 g

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