Select green asparagus for the table, the short bleached stalks are tough and often bitter. Take care also that asparagus is fresh. The tops of stale asparagus have the odor of spoiled flesh meat and are not fit to use.
If not just from the garden, asparagus should stand in cold water 1/2 - 1 hour before cooking. Wash thoroughly, dipping the heads up and down in a large quantity of water, shaking well to dislodge the sand.
As the different parts of the stalk vary in tenderness, the best way to prepare and cook asparagus is to lay a handful of stalks on a vegetable board and holding it with the left hand, with a large sharp knife cut off the tips about 1 1/2 in. from the end, and if the next part is very tender, cut off I in. more to go with the tips. Then cut inch lengths of the next that is of about equal tenderness, and lastly, the remaining part of the stalk that is not tough. The tough part save to flavor soups or sauces, or, reject entirely.
To cook, throw the third lot, that nearest the tough part, into boiling salted water, boil for 10 m., add the second lot, boil 10 m., throw in the top part and boil 10-15 m., or until tips are just tender. By this method the asparagus is all nice and tender and the tips are whole.
When desiring to serve in longer pieces, lay on the board as before and cut 4 or 5 in. from the top (reserving the remaining part for soups or scallops). Tie into neat bundles with strips of muslin. Stand these bundles in rapidly boiling, salted water with the heads well out. Cook from 20 to 30 m., when the stalks will be tender and not decapitated. Asparagus is one of the vegetables that will not admit of many combinations; such only as develop and preserve its characteristic flavor are suitable.