It's asparagus season, people. While you can find asparagus outside these few months, it won't be nearly as tasty — after it's picked, the sugars start to turn to starch, which makes the stalks woody and bland.
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Since the time between harvest and hitting your table affects flavour so much, you should ideally buy asparagus at farmer's markets or local farm stands. If you buy from a store, check the label to see where it came from and opt for the bunches that have travelled the least. Pick stalks that are firm and have tightly closed buds at the top. Here are some ways to cook asparagus to enjoy their bright, fresh flavour:
- Roasted asparagus: A classic side dish that you can spice up by adding minced garlic. You can also grill the asparagus rather than roast them if you want to add a charred flavour.
- Sauteed asparagus with chorizo, fried egg and smoked paprika aioli: Asparagus goes well with salty and fatty foods, which is why the ingredients in this breakfast (or lunch! Or dinner!) meld together beautifully.
- Creamy lemon asparagus pasta:The lemon adds brightness that brings out the sweetness of the asparagus.
- Sichuan-style asparagus and tofu salad: Asparagus shines in all sorts of cuisines, including this Chinese-inspired spicy salad. This is good for a hot day since the asparagus are served cooled.
- Farro risotto with wild mushrooms and asparagus: The nuttiness of the farro and meatiness of the mushrooms balance the grassy asparagus flavour.
If you're grilling, searing or broiling them, use stalks that are thicker since they will stand up to the heat better. Thin asparagus is better for stir fry, eating cold, or raw. You should cut the ends off rather than snap them since they aren't likely to break at the same point in each stalk.