Asparagus is delicious when prepared simply: steamed, roasted or grilled. I like to blanch and shock the asparagus before grilling. Boil the asparagus for 1 minute (this is the "blanch" part of the process). Immediately plunge the asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking process (this is the "shock"). The asparagus will turn bright green and retain all its taste and nutrition. Dry it off and then grill it. Serve alone or on a pizza. Or serve it cold with vinaigrette.
How do you prepare it? Easy--Mother Nature gave you a guide. Pick up a spear, hold one end in each hand, and snap it. It will naturally break at the spot where it turns from woody to tender. You can either snap each spear or use the first one as a guide and cut them all off at the same spot.
Don't throw away those tough ends. You can simmer them for stocks or puree and use in soups. If all your spears are thick and woody, use a vegetable peeler to trim the outside and expose the tender interior.
You'll love these easy asparagus recipes:
Asparagus 101Though asparagus can be found in supermarkets year-round thanks to crops flown in from all over, it's in season for most of us in North America in the spring.
This flowering perennial plant is a cousin to onions and garlic, but it has a much sweeter taste.
As the days grow longer, its tiny edible shoots will start to emerge from an underground crown. Those shoots don't stay tiny for long--asparagus can grow quickly (10 inches in a day!), with spears ready for harvest every few days. But don't hesitate when you see the shoots have reached 6-7 inches; once the tips start to open and they begin to "fern" out, the base of the shoots become woody and inedible.
Asparagus sticks around: One plant, if cared for correctly, will produce shoots for up to 20 years! In my family, the caretaker of the asparagus is my oldest brother, John. Over the years, he has planted long rows of asparagus on our farm so that there will always be a new crop around the corner.
Most of the asparagus we see here is green, but in Europe--especially France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland--white is what you're more likely to see.
This albino variation isn't natural; farmers create it. They loosely mound dirt over the asparagus. As the shoot grows, it is deprived of sunlight and photosynthesis cannot take place. White asparagus must be peeled but can be eaten raw or cooked, just like its verdant counterpart.
If you can find purple asparagus, pick it up. Not only is it very pretty, it has a fruity flavor.
Once harvested, asparagus should be eaten within 24 hours for optimal taste. After that, it will start to lose flavor and juiciness.
Prolong the life of your asparagus by trimming 1/4 inch from the stalks as soon as you bring it home, place the asparagus upright in a vase or bowl of water and add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Cover the tips loosely with a cotton towel or plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.
What's your favorite way to eat asparagus?
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