We had the first asparagus of the season last night. I’m afraid I broke my “strawberry” rule and didn’t wait until it came from our own garden. It was still delicious.
Before moving to Massachusetts in 1960 the only asparagus I had ever eaten had come from a can.  A mush green unpleasant vegetable.  My grandfather always had a garden but never planted asparagus and I don’t remember ever seeing fresh asparagus in a store.
It wasn’t until I received Julia Child’s first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as a Christmas gift in 1961 that I discovered this wonderful veggie. We promptly planted it in our home garden and ever since it has been the much awaited first vegetable of the season.
In Mastering the Art, Julia said that she had tested every asparagus method that she’d heard of and the French method was the best. The asparagus was partially peeled, tied into bundles and placed in a kettle of salted, boiling water until it is just tender, but not limp, then drained and served immediately.
It doesn’t matter whether the stalks are thin or thick but the thick ones are easier to peel. The stalks should be crisp and moist on the end. If it isn’t used immediately, it should be stored upright in a glass with a little water. Peeling is the key to having it perfect every time. I’m frustrated when served asparagus that looks beautiful but has woody ends that turn into stiff strings when chewed.
This is my own variation of Julia’s method. It eliminates the tying but otherwise follows her directions. I agree that it retains its color, texture and flavor best cooked this way.
Fresh Asparagus
6 to 10 spears per person, more if they are very thin
10 or 12 inch frying pan of salted boiling water (I like the wide
flat pan for vegetables)
1. Cut any very woody ends off and then, holding with the butt end up,
use a small, very sharp knife or vegetable peeler to peel the outer skin off the lower part of the stalk leaving the tender center. The upper part of the stalk doesn’t need it.
2. Wash the peeled asparagus quickly in cold water.
3. Drop into boiling water and cook until a fork pierces the butt
end easily. Do not allow to get limp, the stalks should be tender
crisp when served.
4. Drain and serve, either plain or with melted butter, lemon juice or
other sauce.
The stalks can be peeled a few hours in advance and kept refrigerated
wrapped in a damp towel.