Fresh asparagus spears should have mild, sweet taste and a crisp-tender texture. When shopping, choose the thick or thin spears, according to your own preference. Thin stalks are more tender than the thicker. Look for spears of uniform size, so all stalks will cook in the same amount of time. Select straight, firm, green stalks with tightly closed tips. To store the asparagus, stand it in about two inches of water and cover loosely, refrigerate. It should be used within 24 hours. Local asparagus is usually available from mid-April through June.
The “woody” texture of thick asparagus spears can be tamed by peeling, but the task can be daunting. Here’s a quick chef’s tip: rest the spear on a cutting board. Holding the spear by the tip, use a peeler. Scrape away the thin outer layer beginning about an inch below the tips all the way to the base of the spear.
At only 35 calories per cup of cooked asparagus, it is a very healthy choice. It is also an excellent source of Vitamins C and A, as well as iron.