|Photograph © 2013, Lori Korleski Richardson|
To keep it in top condition, you need to cut off the ends and stick it in water; if some of the spears look dehydrated in the store, pass on that bunch. Likewise, make sure that all the spears have their tips, and the tips aren't soggy and soon to rot.
When you prepare it correctly for cooking, it loses even more value. To make the most of what's been bought and give it the proper presentation, many chefs will trim all the ends so the spears are all the same length, and if they more ambitious, peel the bottom half. This makes the ends taste better and make the texture somewhat less stringy, but it's still not the optimum preparation.
Asparagus has a natural breaking point to each spear. Take each spear, and starting from the bottom, bend it until you find the point where it snaps without effort. Above that point, the spear is tender and doesn't need to be peeled at all; below, it is tough and woody. Cook only the top parts - steamed, microwaved, baked or grilled, but not past the point the vegetable is no longer bright green - and you will be assured of tender asparagus.
Save the ends in the freezer to add to vegetable broth or toss them in the compost.