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Produce Bag News: April 20th

Contents:

Small Original: Swiss Chard; Carrots or Beets; Asparagus; Clementines or Navel Oranges; Fuji Apples; Red Potatoes; Zucchini.

Large Bags (in addition/instead of): Celery or Leeks; Cauliflower; Lettuce; Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Cara Cara Oranges; White or Green Onions; Rosemary or Pineapple Sage. Small Diabetic Bags (in addition/instead of): Celery Snack Bags (in addition/instead of): Carrot Sticks; Celery Sticks; Avocado; Strawberries.

Featured Item:

Asparagus is a flowering perennial plant that produces shoots in the spring.  Although in California the first crops are picked as early as February, the asparagus season is generally considered to run from April through May. If not harvested while the shoots are young, they can grow up 5 feet tall and the tips will open up into a feathery fern-like branch that produces small red berries that are poisonous to humans. Asparagus has been cultivated for food and medicine for more than 2000 years. It is believed to be native to most of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. There is a long history of its use in Ayurvedic medicine, especially in relationship to digestive problems. The Egyptians cultivated asparagus as early as 3000 B.C., and a recipe has been found for cooking asparagus in a cookbook dating back to the 3rd century AD.

Asparagus is low in calories and sodium and very high in folate, potassium, and vitamin C and other antioxidants. Asparagus contains phytonutrients called saponins, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.  It also contains significant amounts of the nutrient inulin, which helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. Asparagus is also a diuretic, and neutralize ammonia in the body.

The nutrients in Asparagus begin to deteriorate as soon as the shoots are cut and the plant can quickly dry out.  For this reason it is best to eat asparagus as fresh as possible and to store it with its stalks in water (like flowers in a vase) in order to keep it crisp and tender. Asparagus can be steamed, stir-fried, or grilled, or served in soups.  It is best lightly cooked in order to preserve its tender flavor. It is also great raw in salads and with dips like hummus.

Recipe of the Week:

Braised Asparagus with Lemon
1 bunch Asparagus
1-2 teaspoon Olive Oil
½ Lemon
Sea Salt

Rinse asparagus under cold water and then remove the bottom of asparagus by holding the stalk in the center with one hand and at the bottom with the other. Then gently bend the stalk near the bottom to snap off the rougher/dryer bottom. Place asparagus on a baking sheet and add 1-2 tablespoons of water, just enough to have water rolling around in the pan, but not for the asparagus to be floating.  Place in a 350-degree oven until most of the water evaporates, approximately 5 minutes.  Remove from oven. Squeeze the ½ lemon and lightly drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus. Season with a dash of sea salt and shake the pan to roll the asparagus around so it is evenly coated.  Return to oven until moisture is gone, approximately 5 minutes.  Enjoy!

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