These delectable spears of spring, with their vivid color and delicate flavor, are good hot or cold, dressed up or down.
Through Thick and Thin
Asparagus comes in several sizes, ranging in diameter from thinner than a drinking straw to fatter than your thumb.
- Thin, tender spears can be sautéed, steamed, or rubbed lightly with olive oil and grilled.
- Fatter asparagus spears will need to be trimmed and either steamed or boiled in order to be tender.
- While some people prefer the smaller spears for their delicacy and tenderness, others like thick asparagus for its more robust flavor and meaty texture.
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- VIDEO: How to Cook Asparagus
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How to Buy and Store Asparagus
Whatever size you chose, look for firm, brightly colored stalks with tightly closed tips.
- Asparagus begins to lose its sweetness as soon as it’s picked, so try to cook it as soon as possible after you buy it.
- Markets should refrigerate their asparagus or store it standing upright in cold water.
- If you do plan to store it in your refrigerator for a few days after you get it home, treat it like a bouquet of flowers: trim a small amount from the bottoms of the stalks with a sharp knife and place them in a tall glass with a little water in the bottom. Cover the top loosely with a plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator. This will keep the stalks firm and crisp until you are ready to cook them.
How to Prep Asparagus
The way you prepare your asparagus can depend upon its size.
- The smallest spears will only need to have their very bottoms trimmed off before cooking.
- The bottom portions of larger asparagus spears can be chewy and woody; they will either need to be snapped off or peeled. To snap off the tough portion, simply grasp the stalk with both hands and bend the bottom portion until it breaks off. The asparagus will naturally break off at the point where the tender portion ends and the tough, stringy part begins.
- If you want to be less wasteful, you can peel your asparagus instead. Simply lay a stalk of asparagus flat on the countertop and strip away the tough outside layer with a vegetable peeler, beginning just below the tip and working your way towards the bottom
- Note: Asparagus is grown in sandy soils. Before you cook it, wash well under cool water.
How to Cook Asparagus
Cooking times vary:
- Tiny spears only need a minute or two in a sauté pan.
- Larger spears may need more than five minutes in boiling salted water before they’re perfectly tender.
- Try drizzling spears with olive oil and roasting in the oven.
- However you choose to cook it, watch your asparagus closely so that it doesn’t get overdone. Well-cooked spears are easy to penetrate with a knife, but still bright green in color.
What’s White Asparagus?
White asparagus is just green asparagus that hasn’t seen the light of day. To keep it from turning green, it’s grown in total darkness under mounds of dirt. Popular in Europe, white asparagus is tender and mild.