This harbinger of summer signals a season of bounty with its bright and grassy-green flavor.
Best eaten when fresh, local asparagus will waken the taste buds of localvores who have been lulled into routine by the depths of winter. Often one of the first crops to come into season, asparagus, a relative of the lily family, comes in 300 varieties, and can be green, white and purple. For about six weeks each spring, spears emerge and can grow as much as 10 inches a day under ideal conditions. Left alone and given its druthers, an asparagus plant would grow tall and boast fern or dill-like leaves and red berries and the stems would toughen and get woody. Get them while they are fresh, and you won’t be disappointed. Good on the grill, steamed or roasted, asparagus will brighten the room through May showers.
The jury is still out on which to choose – slender or chunky stalks as both will be deliciously flavorful if they are crisp and heavy. Avoid stalks with bruising, dry spots, splits or wrinkles. Tips should be tight and bright green. Store no longer than 2 days in the refrigerator. To prepare, snap off the ends of stalks, they can be woody, and peel lightly to the tip.