TIPS FOR CHOOSING AND COOKING ASPARAGUS
The diameter of an asparagus spear indicates when it was harvested. Thick spears are generally harvested at the beginning of the season, with the stalks getting thinner as the season wears on. Choose firm, bright green asparagus stalks with plump, tightly-closed tips. Fading colour is a sign of deterioration. Check the stem ends to make sure they look freshly cut, not shrivelled or dried out. Uncooked asparagus will stay fresh for three to four days in the refrigerator. The secret is to keep the vegetable cool and damp. Store spears upright in a container with the stems submerged in an inch of water, then cover loosely with a plastic bag, or wrap the ends in moistened paper towels and store in a plastic bag. The goal when cooking asparagus is to try to preserve the bright colour and delicate flavour. Grilling or roasting the spears intensifies their inherent sweetness. Steamed or boiled asparagus is great for salads. To boil, wash the spears, then plunge them into a pot of boiling water large enough to accommodate them in a single or double layer. Boil uncovered or they will go from a bright green to an army drab colour. As soon as they are ready, drain them and submerge them in ice water or run them under cold water for a few minutes.