Harvest of the Month: Asparagus
You probably don’t associate asparagus with speed, but there are a lot of things about the green stalks that happen in a hurry. Well, after they get started, that is: The plant typically takes three years from seed to first harvest.
After that, though, asparagus happens at a fast clip. The traditional season for asparagus growers is about three months, and during that time, stalks on a strong, healthy plant will grow six or seven inches in one day. As a result, growers must harvest every day. Stalks that are left to grow much more than 24 hours will start to sprout inedible ferns.
Once you get them home, the stalks cook quickly as well, a fact that inspired ancient Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus to use the phrase “Velocius quam asparagi conquantur!” (in English: “Faster than cooking asparagus”) when he wanted things to happen in a hurry.
When buying asparagus, look for bright green or purple-tinged spears that feel firm but not woody. The tips should be closed and compact. To store fresh asparagus spears, you can treat them like fresh flowers: Trim the bottoms and place the cut ends in a vase with an inch of water, cover the tops with a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator. More simply, you
can wrap the cut ends in a damp paper towel and refrigerate the spears in a plastic bag for up to three days.