Asparagus has a relatively short growing season. When buying, the tips should be tightly furled and fresh looking, and the stalks fresh and straight. If the stalks are badly scarred or drooping they shouldn’t be purchased.Before use cut off the bottom of the stalk as it is usually hard and woody. If the bottom parts of the stem also feel hard, pare this away. If the asparagus is very fresh this is not necessary.Bundles of asparagus are boiled upright to ensure evenness of cooking. As a vegetable dish, or a starter, asparagus is usually served simply with a Hollandaise sauce or melted butter. It can be served as a starter wrapped in Serrano or Parma ham or the tips can be added to scrambled eggs for a luxurious breakfast dish. Asparagus can also be roasted in a little olive oil or char-grilled.Its strong flavour lends itself to quiches, tarts,soups and terrines. It can also be added to a cream sauce and used to fill pancakes.Ingredients and flavours that go well with asparagus include tarragon, butter, ricotta,mascarpone, parmesan, Greek yoghurt, lemon,bacon and ham. Dishes made using asparagus as a garnish are known as ‘à la Princesse.