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Food of the Month: Asparagus

Many of us associate asparagus with the unpleasant aroma you smell when urinating after eating asparagus. This odor comes from a chemical called asparagusic acid which is only found in asparagus as you might have surmised. When our bodies break down this chemical it produces a sulfur containing chemical that results in the unpleasant smell. Although most of us can smell the odor when urinating, even as quickly as 15-20 minutes after ingestion, there are some who can not smell the unpleasant aroma. There is controversy as to why this is. One school of thought believes that some people simply do not process the asparagusic acid the same way while others believe it is an issue of perception. Recent research has suggested that some people do not have the olfactory receptors to detect this odor. They in fact produce the smell but do not perceive the smell and therefore do not think they produce the odor (smithsonianmagazine.com).

What is It?

Asparagus is a member of the lily family and is one of spring's first arrivals. It is a labor intensive crop in that each stalk must be cut by hand. Although it is commercially produced in the United States, China is the world's largest producers of asparagus.

Health Benefits:

Asparagus is a fabulous source of Vitamin K. In fact 4 spears contain enough Vitamin K to meet your daily needs. Vitamin K plays a vital role in blood clotting and bone health. Futhermore, asparagus is an excellent source of fiber and glutathione which are both powerful cancer fighters. Additionally, asparagus is rich in the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

How to Store:

Place asparagus in a container with 1-2 inches of water (enough to cover the ends). Cover loosely with a plastic bag and store upright in the refrigerator for up to a week. Another option is to wrap a damp paper towel around the ends of the asparagus making sure to change the paper towel as the paper towel dries out.

How to Use:

1) Steam them on the stove top or in microwave
2) Roast them with some balsamic vinegar
3) Chop them up and use them in a veggie stir fry
4) Use them in salad after steaming or roasting them
5) Make a delicious wild rice salad to serve as a main dish or a side.

Rice Salad with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms

Ingredients:
Salad:

2 cups of water
1 cup long-grain brown or wild rice
2 1/2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms (if you don't have shiitake any mushroom will do)
2 cups green peas (thaw if frozen)
2 cups asparagus, ends trimmed and discarded and then chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 large green onions, white and green parts chopped
1/4 cups pecan halves chopped and lightly toasted
1 tbsp finely chopped tarragon (can use dried tarragon if fresh is not available, approximately 1/4 tsp)IMG_3762

Dressing:

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 medium garlic clove

Instructions:

1) Bring water and rice to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, reduce heat and cover cooking for 45 minutes. After cooking, remove from heat and allow to sit for approximately 10 minutes.
2) While rice is cooking, place a tablespoon of water in a pan over medium-high heat. Once water starts to sputter add mushrooms, asparagus and peas. Cook for about 5 minutes adding water as needed to prevent sticking. Cook until asparagus is tender but not mushy.
3) Add the asparagus mixture, peas, tarragon, pecans and onions to the rice.
4) Blend the dressing ingredients in a small blender and stir into the pot of rice. Serve warm immediately or this dish may be served cold. Garnish with a few more pecans if desired.

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