Market Mondays – Asparagus

It’s one of the temptations of winter. Bunches of asparagus from Peru, tidily displayed in the supermarket aisle. They’re never as tasty as local, but when you’re desperate for a bit of something spring-like, they certainly seem to fit the bill. But now that Ontario asparagus is everywhere, it only seems right to make it a star on our tables.

Related to the lily, asparagus is a flowering spring vegetable that is native to Europe, northern Africa and eastern Asia. Growing from a crown planted in sandy soil, asparagus spears can grow 10 inches in a 24-hour period under ideal conditions. The spears will grow for 6 to 7 weeks with pickings about every 4 to 5 days, until the spears are finally left to grown into a fluffy fern with red berries.

When purchasing asparagus, look for firm, fresh tips. Thin spears are not necessarily better tasting than thick ones. Remove the woody ends by grasping the asparagus at the very end and the very tip and bending it – it will snap off where the woodiness begins. Keep asparagus clean, cold and covered when storing. Asparagus is normally served as a side dish and can easily be frozen on canned. A traditional serving method is on toast, either creamed or cooked and doused in butter. Asparagus is one of the few food  items that etiquette books permit to be eaten with the fingers.

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