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Asparagus Tips and Recipes

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Asparagus Tips and Recipes

Asparagus is a good, low-calorie source of Vitamin A and fiber.

Selecting Asparagus

Select asparagus stalks that are straight and have compact, pointed tips. The thicker the spears, the more tender they are likely to be. Quality spears should be 6-8 inches long with only an inch or so of tough, woody base.

It is best to select stalks of uniform thick-ness. Otherwise, the stalks will not have uniform texture when they are cooked.

Each pound of asparagus will yield about 3 to 4 ½ cup servings.

Using Fresh Asparagus

Asparagus should be stored in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. The base of the stalks should be wrapped with a damp cloth or paper towel. Asparagus becomes tough and woody and loses its sweet flavor soon after harvest, even under refrigeration. For optimum flavor and texture, prepare aspara-gus the day it is picked or purchased.

To prepare asparagus for cooking, break off each stalk as far down as it snaps easily. You may choose to even the stalks by cut-ting them on a cutting board later, but breaking them ensures that the asparagus you prepare will be tender. Wash thor-oughly in cool, running water. Trim off the little nibs along the lower part of the spear. You may choose to lightly peel asparagus
stalks.

Asparagus Shorts

Very thin, tender stalks may be cleaned, cut into 2-inch pieces and eaten raw or lightly blanched. Use them as a salad addition, marinate them in a light vinaigrette or dip them in an herb sauce. Chives, parsley, tarragon, and thyme enhance the sweet flavor of asparagus.

Asparagus Recipes

Oven-Steamed Fresh Asparagus

(3 servings)
1 pound fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
½ teaspoon herb, if desired

Clean and trim asparagus. Lay stalks in a large sheet of foil and dot them with but-ter. Sprinkle with seasonings. Seal the foil into an airtight package, and place the package on a baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for 25 minutes.
Open foil carefully to avoid being burned by the steam that is released.

Sesame Chicken with Asparagus

(Serves 4)
1 pound boneless chicken
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or cooking sherry
4 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
½ cup cornstarch
1 cup sesame seeds
1 pound fresh asparagus
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 ½ cups milk

Cut chicken into 1 ½-inch pieces. Mix to-gether soy sauce, wine, 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and ginger root. Marinate chicken in sauce for 15-30 minutes.

Reserve 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Stir chicken in remaining cornstarch. Roll coated chicken in sesame seeds. Stir fry chicken for 5-6 min-utes, or until done. Remove and set aside.

Wash and trim asparagus. Cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces. Stir fry. Add 3 tablespoons water. Cover and steam 3-5 minutes, or until tender-crisp.

Dissolve cornstarch and bouillon in milk. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
Place chicken and asparagus in a serving dish. Top with sauce.

Notes: You may garnish with additional toasted sesame seeds.

If you choose to marinate the chicken longer than 30 minutes, refrigerate in a covered, non-metallic container.

Asparagus for Later

Asparagus maintains its color, flavor, and texture if it is frozen correctly. Canned asparagus is mushy and
has poor flavor.

How to Freeze Asparagus

  • Wash and trim stalks. Break stalks to remove tough ends; cut into desired lengths.
  • Sort according to stalk thickness.
  • Blanch thin stalks 2 minutes, medium stalks 3 minutes, and thick stalks 4 minutes.
  • Plunge into ice water to cool.
  • Drain. Pack firmly into moisture-vapor resistant freezer packages, removing as much air as possible.
  • Leave no headspace.
  • Seal containers and label them with name of product and the date.
  • Freeze promptly. Store at 0°F or below.

Growing Carrots

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Growing Carrots

Carrots are a very popular vegetable I believe because they are colorful, sweet, and fairly easy to grow. This makes them popular for the gardener to grow. A very commonly used vegetable in a great many dishes also contribute to its adoption. Other than preparing dishes, it can be consumed raw or increasing, used in juicing. Known as a major source of vitamin A, carrots provide a huge dose of sweetness to any juice. It is also a good source of vitamin K and potassium. If you plant carrots in your small home garden, you should be able to grow and harvest carrots for most of the months in a year here in Florida. This will of course require keeping your plants thriving.

In order to grow sweet carrots for your home cooking needs, you need to adhere to a few things:

  • Cool temperatures to sustain the carrots plants. In Florida that means they need to be picked before the most intense sun of the summer. Well-drained soil and rainfall is important. On seasons where rainfall is minimal, watering the carrot plants will help them grow well.
  • The first step would be to till the ground where you plan to plant them or create a raised bed to grow them. It should be about that you will plant the carrots to about 2 cm deep. If you choose to go the raised bed route, make it 2 feet deep. Loose well draining soil is needed.
  • Cover the seeds with soil after planting in the ground, while making sure to give them enough space. Carrots need about 9 inches of space in between each plant.
  • As the seeds germinate and the crown appears above the ground, apply mulch that will help in keeping the grounds wet especially during the drier periods of winter. Unless of course you irrigate.
  • Thinning of carrots would help in giving a constant supply of the carrots fresh from the farm all year round. However, you have to be careful with this process as the carrot fly is sensitive to the smell of damages carrot leaves thus attacking the plant. This though can be controlled. Thinning the carrots 3 to 5 cm apart depending on the size of the carrot produce ensures quality carrots.
  • A good way to help prevent against pests would be to add plants around your garden that encourage good insects like; Dandelion, Dill, Fennel, Marigold or a host of others. When you encounter pests problems use; neem oil, soapy water, citrus water, or even a hot pepper/garlic mix.

Growing Pomegranates

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Growing Pomegranates

The origins of the Pomegranate can be traced to the middle east, most believe in modern day Iran. They were grown widely in most of the middle east, which makes sense since they tend to do better in drier climates. Both ancient romans & greeks grew and ate pomegranate. Greek knew it as the fruit of the dead. Ancient Egyptians ascribed prosperity and ambition to the humble pomegranate. They are mentioned in Greek, Hebrew, and Until recently they were were only available seasonally in the US. Some farmers have been growing them in California with good success. Making them available in more stores for longer than in the past.

Pomegranate has in history also been known as beneficial for a healthy life. This fruit according to many nutritional charts contains more than 5% of your daily needs for 9 different vitamins for each 3.5 ounces. With vitamin K registering the highest at 16%. Their fruits are also full of antioxidants. These nutritional benefits have many companies figuring out ways to add them to different types of foods and juices. The medical field has even chimed in by testing the effects of pomegranate juice on cancer, diabetes, lymphoma, heart disease and many others.

While these may or may not actually prove to be attributable to drinking or eating pomegranate, you should eat it because it is delicious. It is one of the more unique fruits I have ever eaten. It is both sweet and bitter at the same time, but the most notable aspect of eating a pomegranate is the texture. It is a crunchy jelly mass when you bite into in. Just getting to it is a bit different, you have to scoop it out with a spoon.

I decided one day while at a nursery to buy a pomegranate tree and grow it. The tree is young, maybe a year and a half old. They don’t start to produce till about 3 years old and even then won’t really produce a decent harvest till about 5 years old. They don’t usually grow taller than 10 feet so they are easily maintain, though trimming is required or they look more like a shrub than a tree. Pomegranates are drought resistant and don’t have many diseases that you need to be concerned with. Though of course providing water and fertilizer will of course make for a healthy tree that will produce more quickly. Mine recently got to a size where I could start trimming it to provide a tree like shape. You should only try growing on in zones 7-10 as that is their natural temperature zone. They also do better is loose soil. Both acidic loam soil and alkaline soils work well with this hardy plant. Since they are not that large you can grow them in pots and their flowers are beautiful. I am excited to see how my pomegranate tree turns out and plan to grow new trees from its clipped trimming when it gets larger.

Growing Blackberries

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Growing Blackberries

It is said; the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice. I believe that is the case with the blackberry. They are a perennial and tend to grow very rapidly in season and lie mostly dormant outside of it’s growing season. There are many great things about growing blackberries aside from the tasty fruit itself.