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Everyday Food, March/April 2003

This member of the lily family has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. Asparagus is at its peak from February through June and is a good source of fiber, folic acid, and potassium.

How to Store It
Asparagus is best cooked the day it's purchased, but it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to five days in one of the following ways: Wrap the bottoms of the stalks in a damp paper towel, and place in a paper bag; store in crisper. Or stand the bundled stalks in a bowl with about an inch of water.

Thick or Thin?
Although many people believe that thinner asparagus spears are more tender than thicker ones, thick spears are actually just as tender. If the asparagus stems are tough, remove the outer layer with a vegetable peeler.

Spears should be firm and uniform in size. The tips should be closed and compact, and the stalks crisp, not soft and wrinkled.

The tough, woody ends are easily snapped off at the natural breaking point, where the color changes from white to green.

Line up the spears, then slice them horizontally in half, into thirds, or into smaller pieces, depending on what the recipe calls for.

Perfectly cooked asparagus is bright green and crisp-tender. Undercooked asparagus is stiff; overcooked asparagus is mushy.

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