Not necessarily, according to Harold McGee. For his "Curious Cook" column in The New York Times, he snapped 130 spears and found that, even after they were steamed, a third of those asparagus were still stringy and tough at the end. We've always snapped our asparagus. Is there a better way?
Unfortunately, the article doesn't really offer one. McGee mentions that you can be aggressive and cut off 6 to 7 inches from every spear, making sure you get tender ends. But you may be losing a lot of edible stalk in the process.
He does give this tip: The discarded ends are still good if you slice them into very thin disks, then add them to the pan while you're cooking the stalks or use them for a stir-fry. Apparently the stringy fibers lose their chew if they're cut short.
• Read the full article: Asparagus' Breaking Point, from The New York Times
It's a short piece, and the majority of it is devoted to fun facts about how asparagus grow. It's an enlightening read. Did you know that most of what you eat is one day's growth? And that asparagus are so full of go-go energy that they keep growing (usually on a bend) even after they're cut?
Overall, we think we'll still snap our asparagus, mostly because we like the familiar, repetitive process. And a few tough bites left on our plate isn't a big deal. What about you?
(Image: Faith Durand)