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5 A Day

Vegetable of the month: Asparagus

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[APRIL 4, 2006]  ATLANTA, Ga. -- This vegetable is sometimes referred to as the aristocrat of vegetables. Many Greeks and Romans not only appreciate asparagus for its taste but also believe it possesses medicinal properties, from alleviating toothaches to preventing bee stings. Such things are mythical, but asparagus does contain a good supply of vitamins and minerals. Asparagus appears in markets as early as February, but the peak of the season is in April and May.


Asparagus can be found in green and white varieties. Green asparagus is the most common in the United States, while the white is more popular in Europe. White asparagus is grown under the soil. This does not allow the sun's rays to penetrate the plant, and therefore it does not produce the chlorophyll necessary to produce the green color. When eaten raw, white asparagus has a sweet, nutty taste.


Choose firm yet tender stalks. For the green variety, choose stalks with deep green or purplish tips that are closed and compact. Avoid excessively sandy spears. Stalks with a narrow diameter are more tender than thick ones.


Store stalks, with bottoms wrapped in a damp paper towel, in the crisper section of the refrigerator; if you don't have a crisper, put them in plastic bags and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator. It is best to eat asparagus the day it is purchased, because the flavor lessens with each passing day.

Preparation and cooking

Wash asparagus in cool running water. Snap off tough ends at their natural breaking point. Before cooking white asparagus, it first must be peeled so that no skin remains. This can be done using a potato peeler. White asparagus needs to be cooked until completely tender, while the green variety can be stir-fried, lightly steamed or cooked in the microwave.

Make asparagus part of your five-a-day plan

It is easy to include asparagus in your five-a-day plan. Previously cooked asparagus can be served cold with your favorite low-fat dressing or can be added to any salad. It can also be served as a tasty treat with fresh lemon juice. Steamed asparagus is always a nice addition to any meal, and any leftovers can be used to create delicious soup.

Nutrition information

A serving of asparagus is 93 grams.

Amount per serving

% daily value*

Calories, 20 

Calories from fat, 0

Total fat, 0 g


Sodium, 0 mg


Total carbohydrate, 4 g


Dietary fiber, 2 g


Sugars, 4 g


Protein, 2 g


Vitamin A


Vitamin C






* Percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.


No-guilt asparagus guacamole
Makes four servings.


10 1/2 ounces fresh, trimmed or frozen, cut asparagus
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons lime juice (lemon juice may be substituted)
2 tablespoons canned green chili peppers, drained, chopped
1 tablespoon onion, chopped
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Cook asparagus. Drain well, pat dry with paper towels and place in blender. Add remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Dip will become less thick upon standing and will need to be stirred.

This is an official 5 A Day recipe. Recipe provided by the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board.

Nutrient analysis per serving: calories, 25; fat, 0 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; fiber, 2 g; sodium, 142 mg

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Spaghetti with spring vegetables
Makes six servings.


5 medium tomatoes
1/4 pound small asparagus
1 medium zucchini
1/4 pound small white mushrooms
1 large red and/or green sweet pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound spaghetti

Peel, seed and dice tomatoes. Wash asparagus and cut tips off stalks. Wash and dry zucchini and mushrooms; cut into thin slices. Wash pepper and cut into short, thin strips. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add pepper strips and saute over medium heat five to six minutes. Add onion, zucchini, asparagus tips and mushrooms. Saute four to five minutes. Add diced tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cook uncovered over medium heat 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in parsley and garlic. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Cook spaghetti; drain and place in a warm deep dish or bowl. Pour sauce over spaghetti. Serve immediately.

This is an official 5 A Day recipe. Recipe provided by Jeanette Mettler Cappello.

Nutrient analysis per serving: calories, 450; fat, 13 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; fiber, 5 g; sodium, 16 mg; percent calories from fat, 27 percent

* * *

Spicy grape pasta salad
Makes six servings.


8 ounces angel hair pasta
2 cups julienne cooked chicken, light meat
1 1/2 cups seedless grapes
1 cup cut asparagus or broccoli flowerets
1 cup julienne sweet red peppers
1/2 cup diagonally slice celery
1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or fresh basil

Spicy Oriental dressing
Makes six servings.


1/4 cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons low-calorie soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chilies
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Toss pasta with 1/4 cup of the dressing. Cool to room temperature. Add remaining ingredients; toss and serve. To make dressing, combine ingredients and let stand at least 30 minutes. Remove garlic before serving.

This is an official 5 A Day recipe. Recipe provided by the California Table Grape Commission.

Nutrient analysis per serving: calories, 299; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 69 mg; fiber, 3 g; sodium, 253 mg; percent calories from fat, 25 percent

[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]


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