Tips on buying, storing asparagus

Burning Questions

May 10, 2006|By ERICA MARCUS | ERICA MARCUS,NEWSDAY

I SAW ASPARAGUS AT THE MARKET THE OTHER DAY FOR $1.69 A POUND, BUT WAS STILL NERVOUS ABOUT BUYING IT BECAUSE I NEVER KNOW HOW TO HANDLE IT. HELP.

A successful asparagus dish really begins at the market. Look for spears that are bright green and firm, the peel smooth and free of dents and bruises. The buds at the tip should be tightly closed.

A long-standing debate rages over whether thick or thin asparagus has the best flavor. I'm not convinced either has the edge. More important than thick or thin, however, is that all of the asparagus spears are of the same thickness, otherwise they will not cook evenly.

As soon as I get home from the market, I saw off the bottom half-inch or so of the spears (keeping the elastic bands in place) and stand the now-trimmed asparagus upright in a stable, straight-sided vessel that has about a quarter-inch of water in the bottom.

I cover the asparagus loosely with the plastic bag it came in and put the vegetable on the top shelf of the refrigerator. Asparagus handled this way will keep for up to a week as long as you replenish the water.

I trim the bottom of each spear so that the flesh exposed is moist and firm. Then, using a vegetable peeler with a horizontal blade, I peel the bottom 2 inches by holding each spear below the tip and peeling down toward the base, applying more pressure as I go down.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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