Although asparagus is available all year long, it’s really best in the spring, when it’s local and fresh, and at it’s peak. You may be surprised to know that asparagus is a member of the lily family along with garlic and leeks. Another surprising fact about asparagus is that even after they’re picked, they keep growing. That’s why the tips of your asparagus may be bent to one side (like the green ones in the photo).
Asparagus comes in three colors, green, purple and white. The white ones are a result of being covered with dirt to prevent photosynthesis from occurring. Unfortunately, the purple ones will turn green if they’re over-cooked, so save them for something where you’ll eat them raw or barely cooked.
Size is a matter of personal preference. The Accidental Locavore prefers her asparagus to be nice and thick, however many people prefer the pencil thin ones. The size comes from the age of the plant, with the youngest plants producing the skinny stalks. According to a recent Fine Cooking Magazine, thicker spears are tenderer. That’s because all asparagus have a set number of fibers, so they are more dispersed in the thicker stalks. When you’re buying asparagus, look for tightly closed tips with nothing open or going to seed. Avoid woody looking stems, or wilted looking stalks.
Besides being highly nutritious, asparagus are really versatile. You can steam them, grill or roast them, slice them thin and serve raw in salads. Here are some of the ways the Accidental Locavore likes to serve them.