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A New England spring is more of a concept than a season. No matter, it does mark the end of winter – and the start of asparagus season, which when fresh has a wonderfully sweet and subtle flavor. But it’s not just delicious; it is also very good for you. According to the National Cancer Institute asparagus is the food highest in glutathione, an important anti-carcinogen. In addition, it is also rich in vitamins A and C as well as selenium, all of which are fierce cancer fighters. And if that is not enough, it is an excellent source of potassium, fiber, thiamine, vitamin B6 and rutin, (this strengthens capillary walls). When shopping for asparagus look for smooth skin, bright green color, compact heads, and freshly cut ends. The stalks are pencil thin early on and get thicker as the season advances. Tenderness is not linked to girth but to freshness. European white asparagus if also seasonally available. This is grown under the soil to keep it from turning green. I have no idea how growing without sunlight impacts its nutritional value. Though many love it, I think the green is more flavorful. Asparagus is not really a great raw vegetable but you can boil, saute, or roast it. My preference is the latter. Very easy – after washing and drying place it in a baking dish, baste with olive oil, add pepper, sea salt, and if you like some fresh lemon juice, put it in a 450 degree oven for 5-6 minutes (could be a little less time for thinner, a little more for thicker). When it’s done you can serve it as a meal, a side dish, or cut it up, add a little butter, Parmesan cheese and mix it with cooked pasta. It is simple but mouth memorable.

Debbie Jones-Steele

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