Sunday, 7 December 2008 | Tags:

Served warm or cold, succulent spears of asparagus are a tangy ingredient in salad, pasta, and pizza, or by themselves as a tasty side dish. Since theyíre so easy to prepare (steam until tender, add butter and salt to taste), we find out more about buying these delicious vegetables.

The Basics

  • Asparagus is available year-round but its peak season is in April when the price is cheaper and the vegetable is more abundant.

  • To ensure you’re buying the freshest bunch, look for compact, tight, firm tips (deep green or purple-ish), and stalks with smooth, rich, green skin.

  • The asparagus stalk should be cut almost as far down as the green extends. You’ll see hints of white or purple at the bottom of the stalk.

  • Smaller spears are usually more tender than big ones.

  • Try to buy spears that are of equal thickness so they cook evenly.

  • If the tips are slightly wilted, freshen them up by soaking them in cold water.

  • Store your asparagus standing upright in a sturdy glass or container filled with an inch or so of water. Many grocery stores sell asparagus in trays filled with a bit of water to help keep them fresh and hydrated.

  • Avoid tips that are open and spread out, moldy or decayed.

  • Avoid spears with up-and-down ridges or that are not approximately round, which means they’re not fresh and will taste poor.

Other Considerations

White asparagus

  • It’s the same plant as green asparagus, but has been buried under soil to prevent chlorophyll production, which is what gives plants their green colour.

  • White asparagus is slightly milder in flavor and a bit more tender than the green variety, but all types and colors may be used interchangeably in recipes.

Preparation Tips

  • Asparagus should be cooked to help bring out the flavour, but can be served hot or cold.

  • Cut or break off the thick, stalky end before cooking.

  • Asparagus are most often steamed, but they can also be roasted, sautéd, boiled, and barbecued (using a tray).

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