What to Do with Asparagus

Most vegetables are not very expensive. I attribute this fact to modern agriculture's ability to cheaply and easily mass produce, store and transport the average vegetable. There is, however, one vegetable that defies this rule. Asparagus is fairly expensive. I think this is because it takes several years to grow a decent crop and even then it is not easily harvested.

Asparagus is also a crop that really must be bought and consumed in season. A cook must be careful to get spears that are relatively tender because an asparagus spear that has been in the ground too long will have the taste and consistency of a nylon rope. Usually thinner spears are younger and more tender. If possible, they should be stored with the sliced ends in water. If you are picking out asparagus at the store stick a thumbnail into the base of a stalk. If it feels like the cane could support a line, a hook and a six pound catfish, put it back.

When preparing spears, I always cut away at least and inch and sometimes more from the bottom. The bottom will turn to rope first and the transformation seems to move up the stem of the plant. If your asparagus has set in the refrigerator for a few days, you will want to bite into a sample spear to find where the rough skin begins. Even if you are as cheap as I, you might as well resign yourself to cutting off and discarding the ropy part. It's better than having everyone placing wet, green gobs on their plate at dinner.

For distinctive flavor, nothing beats asparagus. This distinction keeps it from being used in a whole lot of dishes, yet it will complement any dish, especially those in the white meat category.

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