Green asparagus is traditionally the most common variety, while purple or white asparagus is usually available on a limited basis in speciality markets. White asparagus is grown underneath a mound of dirt which is a growing method that keeps the stalks from turning green. Once they emerge through the ground, the stalks are harvested and sent to market. The white variety has less flavor than the green or purple. The shoots of the green asparagus are usually harvested when the stalks reach a height of 8 inches and are 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. The purple variety is generally harvested when the stalks reach a height of approximately 3 inches. It is a type of asparagus that provides a somewhat distinctive fruity flavor.
When selecting asparagus, choose stalks that are firm and crisp with heads that are full, tightly closed and not discolored. Check the aroma from the bunched asparagus as it should not give off an objectionable odor. The ends of the asparagus that have been cut should be moist and fresh in appearance, not dried or cracking. Asparagus can be boiled, steamed, sautéed, pickled, or served cold. It makes an enjoyable appetizer, or a good complement to salads, vegetable dishes, and soups. Asparagus can also be pureed to be used for soups and soufflés. This vegetable is very perishable. Fresh asparagus will last about 3 to 4 days while blanched asparagus can last for 9 months or so in a freezer. Do not wash asparagus before storing. Wash it just before using. To store, wrap in a paper towel and place in a plastic bag that is not airtight, or place upright in a jar or glass containing 1/2 inch of cold water.