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While asparagus is available year round (since most of it is grown in sunny California and Florida), nothing says spring has sprung quite like seeing the asparagus crop at its height in your grocery store in the month of April. In fact, this great little plant loves the sunny spring days so much it can grow more than an inch an hour when the weather conditions are just right.
Given that typical green asparagus is cut at soil level once it reaches about 7 inches, can you imagine seeing them grow so fast, or the joy of the farmer harvesting them during such bumper spring-growing days!
A Couple of Tips for Choosing Sprung Asparagus
Except for the rarer occasions you’re going to prepare the asparagus with its woody stalk bottom, ideally you want to select asparagus that’s shorter in stalk size, say around 3-4 inches. This is because the tougher bottom of the asparagus stalks have already been cut off for you.
It’s rarer to find shorter asparagus stalks at the market, but you may come across a farmer or grocer doing such, showing they have your best interest in mind.
Choose the untouched-by-the-sun variety of asparagus, white asparagus, for a lighter and milder texture and flavor. While white asparagus is as everywhere in Europe as green asparagus is everywhere in the U.S.A, it’s not so rare that you can’t dig up a few stalks, such as where I’ve recently seen them at Whole Foods.
Recommended reading: Best Mediterranean Cookbooks
Southern Spring Asparagus Salad
Bake a pound of standard or small size green asparagus that has been trimmed and peeled ( if necessary) by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet, drizzling with olive oil, sprinkling coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and then shaking the baking sheet so that the asparagus rolls in the seasonings so most, if not the entire stalk, of asparagus is coated with the olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper. (Check out our recommended salt and pepper grinder sets!)
If you’ve never baked asparagus (like this before), don’t overdo the olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper. Proportion! Proportion! Proportion!
In beginner’s terms, that means quickly and lightly drizzle a thin stream of olive oil over most of the asparagus, only getting a couple of drops on each stalk. (Here’s some olive oil dispensers you may like)
With only the tips of all five fingers, grab a small pinch of sea salt and spread it over the asparagus. Likewise, spread the freshly cracked black pepper over the asparagus so each stalk gets a couple of pieces.
Place the asparagus in a pre-heated 400 degree oven on the center rack. Bake for 20 minutes, quickly checking with the tip of a set of tongs around the 15-minute mark whether or not the asparagus has tendered but still has a crispness to it. Remove with best oven mitts.
Remove from baking sheet and let asparagus cool.
Cut asparagus into bite-size pieces and toss with about 12 ounces of salad greens, a pint of cherry tomatoes, a few splashes of white distilled vinegar, two tablespoon of mayonnaise and a quick drizzle of olive oil.
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