Prepping Asparagus

Although you can buy asparagus year-round, it becomes widely available at the beginning of March in most grocery stores. I always associate it with the beginning of spring, which is maybe why it’s one of my favorite vegetables! Not to sound pedantic, but it’s also full of vitamins and minerals, is low in calories and also sodium.  Asparagus is actually a perennial plant which used to be classified in the lily family.

Asparagus comes in two colors — green and white — but typically Americans buy and eat the green variety. Why the difference? White asparagus is covered with soil while it’s growing, which deprives it of sunlight and the photosynthesis process. Aha! Elementary science lesson not forgotten! White asparagus is preferred in Europe with its milder flavor. They’re available here in the U.S. either fresh or canned.

Asparagus is usually sold in bunches and can vary in width — from pencil-thin stalks to fat ones. That’s a matter of taste, but do remember that the cooking times will be different depending on the girth of your asparagus stalks. Look for stalks that firm and not starting to wilt. Also look for tightly packed tips that aren’t beginning to fray.

 Asparagus is over 90% water, so If you’re not planning on using them right away, store the stalks in a container with a bit of water on the bottom to prevent them from drying out. Another alternative is to wrap the asparagus in damp paper towels until you’re ready to use them.

Here’s how to prep them:

1.Hold the asparagus in two hands and gently snap the end of the stalk. The tough, dry part of the stem will fall off.

2.Peel the bottom of each stalk with a vegetable peeler. Yes, many people don’t do this, but it will make your asparagus taste better and it’s worth the extra effort.

3.They’re ready to use. Enjoy!