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Asparagus And Radishes Are Two Powerhouse Foods For Springtime

| April 18, 2016

Despite the chilly temperatures in the morning, it is officially spring in the U.S. With the arrival of spring comes an abundance of nutritional powerhouse foods that will be making an appearance at your local farmer’s market. Our current food system transports produce from around the world, allowing us the opportunity to satisfy just about any craving year round. While this is very handy, the downside to the system is that our food often travels quite a distance, losing vital nutrients and much of its succulent flavor on the way to our plates.

There is something truly special about eating produce just picked from the ground and even better when purchased from the very farmer who cultivated it. Many would argue the nutritional benefits of produce picked at its peak and consumed quickly also couldn’t be beat. Nutrition aside, your taste buds will love you!

Your local farmers market is loaded with spring produce, all worthy of an honorable mention, but I have picked two vegetables that both pack a great nutritional punch and will liven up your spring plate! An interesting common denominator with these nutritional stars of spring is their rich abundance of antioxidants – perhaps that is what Mother Nature thinks we need after months of colder weather and too many comfort foods.

TWO STARS OF SPRING
  1.  Asparagus
    Asparagus is loaded with nutrients!  This herbaceous plant is a particularly rich source of glutathione, which according to Dr. Mark Hyman “is the mother of all antioxidants, the master detoxifier and the maestro of the immune system.” Antioxidants are crucial in neutralizing and eliminating cell-damaging free radicals (the bad guys that age us from the inside) and removing toxins from the body.

    Additionally, asparagus is a good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.

    When buying asparagus, look for spears that are sturdy with tight heads. If you hold a spear at both ends it should snap nicely when bent; use the top end. Shave off any woody spots with a peeler.  Asparagus is best when prepared simply. They also pair well with many herbs so get creative with your dish! Steam spears for 3-5 minutes then top with olive oil, salt and pepper; or fire up the grill, coat spears with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill for 3-5 minutes. Spears should be slightly tender when cooked but not soft or mushy.

  2. Radishes
    Radishes are brightly colored root vegetables not likely to be at the top of your weekly shopping list. Although radishes are not found in many recipes, they are nutritious and add crunch and flavor to meals. They belong to the Brassica family, and like other Brassica vegetables, contain numerous varieties of antioxidant compounds, all playing a crucial role in the prevention of cancer, the elimination of free radicals and the fight against inflammation. Radishes also contain adequate levels of folate, vitamin B-6, trace minerals and phytochemicals.

    When buying radishes, look for roots that are fresh and firm in texture, brightly colored and free of cracks or cuts on their surface. The greens should be fresh with no yellow or shriveled leaves. Once at home, remove the top greens as they can rob the root of nutrients. Wash to rid the root of surface dust and soil and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

    Radishes make a great addition to any raw vegetable tray or mixed in a green salad. Here is a recipe that combines the best of both our featured vegetables.

RECIPES

Asparagus with Green Herbs

  • 2 pounds pencil-slim asparagus, trimmed of tough stems
  • Simmering salt water
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup snipped chives
  • 1 tightly-packed tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Instructions:
Wash the asparagus spears well to rid them of sand. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitting with a steamer basket. Lay asparagus spears on a steamer basket and cook 1-2 minutes. After 1 minute, test stalks with a knife — you want them to have some resistance and slightly crisp. Lay out asparagus on platter and drizzle with olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper. Roll gently to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Asparagus & Radish Salad

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed of tough stems
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons olive or walnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed and cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • 2-3 dashes Asian red chile sauce, such as Sriracha {optional}

Instructions:
Fill a medium bowl with ice water and place by the stove. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Thinly slice asparagus stalks on the diagonal, leaving the tips whole. Place asparagus in steamer basket and steam under tender-crisp {about 1 minute}. Transfer the asparagus to the ice water. Drain.
Combine vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil, ginger, and chile sauce {if using} in a large bowl. Add the asparagus, radishes, and scallion; toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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