Asparagus is one of the more expensive vegetables but this is due to the unusual way it is grown — beds require two or three years of cultivation before they yield a crop. Furthermore, careful tending is essential and asparagus must be harvested by hand.
• When buying asparagus, choose firm, bright green (or pale ivory) stalks with tight tips.
• Contrary to popular belief, thin asparagus spears aren't more tender than the thick ones. Tenderness is usually related to colour — the greener or purpler or whiter the better.
• If asparagus stems are tough, remove the outer layer with a vegetable peeler.
• Asparagus is best cooked the same day it's purchased but will keep, tightly wrapped in damp paper towels for three to four days in the refrigerator. Or, store standing upright in about 3 centimetres of water, covering the tips with a plastic bag.
• To cook, steam, stir-fry or quickly boil asparagus in a small amount of water in a frying pan, until just tender. or pan-grill or barbecue.
• Tender asparagus can also be enjoyed thinly sliced and eaten raw in salads.