Did you know white asparagus owes its lack of color to being cultivated underground? Farmers pile dirt on top of the stalks as they grow so they don’t absorb sunlight and produce chlorophyll, the chemical that gives plants their green hue (as well as a few extra nutrients). You can use all shades of asparagus interchangeably in recipes, though some people feel the white variety tastes somewhat sweeter.

Make this powerhouse vegetable the star of your spring routine. Most familiar in shades of green, but also available in white and purple, asparagus boasts a laundry list of health-boosting nutrients—including significant levels of potassium and folate. It’s easy to become a farm-stand asparagus aficionado with these tips from Tasha Deserio, author of Salad for Dinner.

How to pick asparagus
Thin spears tend to have a strong grassy flavor, while the fatter ones are more mellow. Look for a bunch that is firm to the touch with tight, closed buds on top. If the tips have any blooms and look separated or the cut ends look dry, take a pass; they won’t taste as intense.

Asparagus, Zuchini and Parmesan Salad

How to store asparagus
Asparagus loses flavor more rapidly than many other veggies, so use it as soon as possible after purchasing—especially if it’s from the supermarket. When you do need to store the stalks, wrap the bunch in a moist paper towel and stash in your crisper, or stand upright in a glass filled with an inch of water.

Garganelli Pasta with Apsaragus, Artichokes, Pea Purée, and Fava Beans

How to prepare asparagus
A quick rinse and a trim is all this green veggie needs before cooking. Bend the bottom of one stem until it breaks naturally and use that as a guide for how much of the woody ends to remove from the rest. If the asparagus is stringy, remove the outer layer with a vegetable peeler.

Quick Asparagus Soup Recipe

How to cook asparagus
This delicate vegetable requires just a blanch in boiling water. Give it 2 to 3 minutes (or until tender) and finish with a light drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon. Try DeSerio’s refreshing recipe for asparagus and farro salad with feta and mint—and score more delicious recipes that put the stalks center stage.

Asparagus nutrition facts per 1⁄2 cup (about 4 to 6 medium spears):
13 calories
1g fiber
135g potassium
35g folate

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