California asparagus is back in season and it is one of my favorite vegetables. Peak season is March through June so we will have them for the next few months. Here are some tips when purchasing California asparagus:
The asparagus tips should be closed and compact. Slimy tips means the asparagus is starting to decompose. The stalk should be green all the way through. You do not want to see too much white creeping up into the stalk. Finally, the bottom of the stalk should be crisp and snap when you bend it, not rubbery and easily pliable.
The thick versus thin debate is all about personal taste. One is not necessarily better than the other. The larger asparagus comes from younger plants and the thinner asparagus comes from older plants or plants that have been planted close together. Again, one is not necessarily better than the other. It is all a matter of what you enjoy most.
Asparagus is highly perishable so when you bring it home keep it in your refrigerator. If you are not going to use it within two days of purchase then wrap a wet cloth around the bottom of the stalk so it doesn’t dry out.
You will probably see white asparagus in your market and wonder how it is grown. When the asparagus spears emerge from the ground, sunlight turns the stalks green. To grow white asparagus, dirt is piled on top of the plants so that the stalks grow underground. Without sunlight, the stalks remain white. Green asparagus, though, does have a higher nutritional content.
Below is a recipe for perfectly roasted asparagus:
1 bunch asparagus, cut off an inch from the bottom kosher salt Pepper
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Wash asparagus and place on a heavy roasting pan or cookie sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Place in the upper rack of the oven Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then plate and serve.
Optional: For additional flavor, take the asparagus out of the oven after 10 minutes and cover them in shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano. Place them back in the oven for 5 more minutes. Remove once again, drizzle with olive oil and serve.