By Laura Swanson
Every vegetable has its season, and for me, a favorite is “asparagus” season – when the first early spring crops arrive and the price per pound drops. There are so many ways to prepare asparagus – classic steamed; drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and roast with garlic of course – and pickled. Yes, pickled asparagus spears – oh, yum!
One of our family traditions is to prepare “Spring Asparagus Soup” for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. It’s perfect for our Irish heritage (my mom’s maiden name was Fitzpatrick) to have green soup and corned beef. This is a quick and easy soup to prepare, low in calories and asparagus is such a nutrient rich vegetable.
Asparagus is a young tender shoot (spear) vegetable, which emerges from its underground root system. Their use as food was well recognized by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a prized delicacy. One of the oldest recorded vegetables, it’s thought to have originated along the coastal regions of eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor regions.
Botanically, it is a herbaceous perennial plant (meaning it will come back year after year with a little attention and maintenance) belonging to the Asparagaceae family. It is closely related to the Liliaceae plants which also include onion, garlic, tulip, daffodil, etc. – all the heralds of spring.
Plant asparagus crowns in early spring, and once established, this plant can provide an abundance of healthy spears after a couple years. Young scaly edible spears emerge from the underground extensive matted root systems, which can be ready for harvest in early spring in some areas, usually by late spring here on the Oregon Coast. When I see my asparagus making an appearance in the garden, that’s when I know it’s spring.
Asparagus is a very low-calorie vegetable. 1 cup (134 g) fresh spears carry just 40 calories. Fresh asparagus is a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as the B vitamins. Asparagus is an excellent source of minerals, copper, iron,. calcium, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.
This is soup is so easy to prepare, elegant and very nourishing. Serve it for your St. Patrick’s Day meal or for Easter dinner, and when it’s spring asparagus season – stock up! The soup freezes well, too. You can use vegetable stock and then it is vegan/vegetarian and is also gluten-free.
Number of servings:
2 1/2 lbs. asparagus
3 T. butter
1/2 C. minced onion
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 t. ground coriander
4-6 C. chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and White Pepper
1. Steam asparagus to tender, bright green.
2. Cut tips and reserve. Cut remaining stalks into 1” pieces.
3. Sauté onion, garlic and coriander in butter in large heavy pan, until soft, not browned.
4. Add asparagus stalks. Simmer 10 minutes
5. Puree in blender or with submersible blender
6. Pour back in pan; add asparagus tips. Heat to hot.
7. Add white pepper and salt to taste.