All About Asparagus

It's the stalk of the town.


  • Peak season is April to June.
  • Asparagus tends to be expensive because it's harvested by hand.
  • Unlike most baby vegetables (where smaller equals more succulent), extra-thick shoots of asparagus (called “jumbos" in the industry) have more tender, flavorful flesh than their pencil-thin counterparts.
  • To know whether they're fresh, stalks should be bright green and bendy but firm. Don't buy the veggie if the cut ends look dry and slightly concave, or if the tips look battered.
  • Most American asparagus comes from California, Michigan, and Washington.

Color Story
White asparagus is merely green asparagus that was covered with sand as it grew to shield it from chlorophyll-producing sunlight. It has a milder taste.

Conventional wisdom calls for breaking off the lower end of the stalk to separate the tender from the tough portion. Some extra-thorough cooks use a vegetable peeler to remove tough skin (from below the tip to the base) to get more veggie for the money.

Do you really need to have a special, tall, cylindrical cooking pot complete with a steamer (that you salivated over on the registry) to cook asparagus? Nope -- but if you have the kitchen storage space, it can make the process almost foolproof.

With a regular cooking pot, tie the shoots into sheaves and stand them in a few inches of water so that while the bases are boiled, the more tender heads are steamed, holding in the nutrients.

The meant-for-asparagus pot cooks the asparagus upright, making them perfectly tender and crisp without the hassle of finding the kitchen twine (do you even have kitchen twine?).

Asparagus can also be microwaved (until just-cooked but still bright green), boiled, grilled, or roasted (with plenty of olive oil and garlic).

Dressing Up
Traditional accompaniments include melted butter, hollandaise sauce, or vinaigrette, though asparagus is delicious with a few drops of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan, or even just a spritz of lemon.

Your great-aunt's ancient silver set may contain a special asparagus server, but the easiest -- and modern -- way to dish up asparagus is with tongs.

Asparagus is one of the few finger foods okayed by the etiquette police.