Asparagus Season Has Arrived

What You Need To Know About The “Queen Of Vegetables”

Although we are able to get almost every type of fruit or vegetable throughout the year due to global imports and exports, I prefer to use seasonal and locally grown fresh food whenever possible.

Asparagus Season Has Arrived | Foodal.com

This time of year is especially famous for asparagus (at least in the temperate zones in the northern hemisphere). And it is truly a delicacy.

In Europe, Germany is the largest producer of this specialty. The worldwide leader of production is China, followed by Peru. The season only lasts a couple of weeks, and makes fresh asparagus an expensive but highly desired food.

The green and white varieties are the two common types of asparagus. These different colors result from different methods of cultivating the vegetables. White asparagus is grown under the soil or various other coverings (keeping it from the sun and eliminating or reducing chlorophyll development).

And white spears with violet tips grow with their ends protruding on the surface, where they can receive a touch of sunlight.

White Asparagus | Foodal.com
Although white asparagus is not often seen in the US and Canada, it is available in better supermarkets and gourmet food stores.

The green variety has completely pierced though the soil during the growing process and is then cut. As this type needs more time to grow, they are often available later in season.

The difference in taste is not as great as one might think. White spears have a delicate and mild aroma, while you can find a savory but subtle flavor when you decide to have the white-violet variety. If you prefer yours more crisp and intense, you should choose the green ones.

Green Asparagus Spears | Foodal.com
Green asparagus spears are much more common in the Americas.

A word of caution – the plant contains and amino acid known as asparagine as well as potassium, which work as diuretic agents. About 40% of people lack the enzyme required to break down the aspartic acid found in asparagus, and in combination with a variety of other compounds found in the vegetable, a sulfurous odor may result when you have eaten a certain quantity.

End result – you may need to go to the bathroom, and it may have that signature smell. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying a wonderful and healthy dish.

So, what do you need to know?

Selection

Fresh Asparagus Selection | Foodal.com

Here are some tips to check whether asparagus is fresh and of a good quality:

Feel It

Is it strong and sturdy? The asparagus should not feel rubbery and pressure marks should not result when you touch or try to bend it.

Look At It

If it is dry, it’s probably an older, tougher stalk that will need to be peeled. Is it shiny? If there are any brown discolorations or the spears look dry, you’d be better off looking in another supermarket, or better yet at a farmer’s market.

Have a look at the cut surface at the end of the spear. Ideally, some juice should come out if you squeeze gently. Also, be on the lookout for hollow asparagus stalks.

Take a look at the tip of the stalks as well. If it’s white (or green) and still closed, you can be sure it is good quality. An opened tip may simply indicate that it was not harvested as early as the pure white ones or baby varieties.

Lynne’s Note

In the US, some “farmer’s markets” allow vendors to sell fruits and vegetables from any source – try to find one that limits sellers to providing produce that they have grown themselves, or that are at least locally grown.

Hear It

The squeak test is a reliable procedure to assist you in checking the quality of this type of produce. Take two spears and rub them against each other – if you hear them squeaking, the food is fresh.

Smell it

If there is nothing to smell, there is nothing to taste. The vegetable should exude a light aroma.

Here’s another tip:

If you’re buying your groceries at the farmer’s market or you have a good relationship with the produce manager, ask for broken asparagus spears. Here in Germany, this is a great way to get a good bargain because many people only want the long and good-looking spears – and the merchants want to sell them, of course.

When you’re planning to cook a soup with them, it doesn’t really matter if the spears are perfect. At the very least, you will cut them up, and you may even run them through a food processor  or a food mill and cream them for use in certain recipes.

Lynne’s Note

In the US Midwest and some southern states, it’s possible to find wild or “volunteer” asparagus growing the fence line along the road. I tend to look along gravel roads, as there is a less of a possibility of pollution. Be careful about trespassing and stick to the state or county right of ways, unless you have permission to enter the field and forage wherever it may be growing.

Prepping

It is important is to peel the larger stalks, because the skin is fibrous and unpleasant to eat. When using the green variety, it’s often enough to peel the lower third of more mature spears. The technique is the same as when you’re peeling carrots.

Westmark Germany Double Sided Vegetable Peeler

There are specially designed asparagus peelers such as the Westmark version shown above, but a common vegetable peeler will do. You just have to be careful that you don’t peel off too much of the tender part of the vegetable, wasting some of it.

You should shorten the spear at the end as well, as this part can be stringy or bitter. The asparagus tips, however, should not be thrown away. On the contrary, this part is the most tender and flavorful part of the stalk.

You can simply chop off the lower part of the stalk, or bend to see where the stalks want to break naturally. This may be a better technique if you grow your own asparagus and have a bumper crop, or access to a cheap supply. Use the tougher pieces that you’ve discarded in a homemade vegetable stock.

Cooking

There are various ways to cook asparagus, and many say the best way is to boil it lightly with the spears standing upright in the pot. By the way, there are indeed specially designed asparagus pots made for this purpose, with an integrated strainer. Only the lower part of the vegetable is submerged in the water while the rest is gently steamed.

So if asparagus is – or becomes – one of your favorite seasonal foods, you might consider getting a dedicated cooking vessel. If you prefer to enjoy it from time to time, you will be fine using a cooking pot that you already have at home.

The classic way of preparing asparagus is boiling. Where I come from, many restaurants serve it the old-school way, which means combining the vegetable with melted butter or hollandaise sauce, cooked ham and new potatoes. Check out this fabulous Eggs Benedict recipe for a great hollandaise sauce that you can make in your blender.

The easiest way to prepare this veggie is to cook it lying in a large sauce pan, or a short but wide stock pot or brazier.

Add just enough water barely cover the stalks. Add a dash of salt and some sugar to taste, a splash of lemon juice, and a chunk of butter.

The lemon juice helps to maintain their bright color, and sugar can counteract the bitter compounds found in the vegetable.

Turn your stove on medium-low and let it simmer. It usually takes 5 to 10 minutes until they’re ready – depending on the type, size, and color of the spears (green needs less time to cook than white).

Also, the longer you cook them, the softer they will get. So if you like your vegetables a bit more firm, shorten your cooking time

Alternatively, you can cook this seasonal produce in the oven. Place the spears in a baking dish. Add salt, sugar, butter and water and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 180°C/360°F for up to 40 minutes (depending on the size of the stalks). This is the best method if you like your asparagus more intensely flavored.

You can take off the foil for the last third of the baking time and the added sugar will caramelize, giving your dish a more aromatic taste.

Try our recipe for roasted asparagus with walnut crema and pecorino cheese to enjoy this method of cooking!

If you prefer a more crunchy sensation, you can also lightly steam this veg for 3 to 5 minutes, or sauté it.

Grilling Asparagus | Foodal.com
Grilling is another great method for cooking the spears.

Another nice way to prepare asparagus at home would be to roast or even grill it in the summer, with olive oil and herbs.

If you want to enjoy this vegetable throughout the year, you can also to freeze it. Use fresh spears only, peel them (if required) and put them into freezer bags.

You can keep freezer burn away by packing them with a vacuum sealer rather than using plain plastic bags, but this is not a requirement. I like to cut them into small pieces so I can have a portion ready whenever I feel like adding some to a soup or a vegetable side dish.

Simply place the frozen asparagus in some boiling water and simmer until ready. Sure, the taste and aroma won’t be the same as fresh, but it’s a great away to store it and it’s much better than canned.

For fresh eating, you can store your farmer’s market haul in the fridge for up to three days. Wet a kitchen towel, wrap it completely around the asparagus, and put the in your vegetable drawer in the fridge.

Or, try standing asparagus in a tall container filled with a few inches of water in the fridge, and tent with a plastic bag.

Here are two easy and quick springtime recipes for asparagus:

Fruity Asparagus Salad

This salad is not just incredibly easy to make, but also a fresh and healthy choice for a light meal. You can vary the kind of fruit that’s used to suit your tastes.

Fruity Asparagus Salad | Foodal.co.

I once tried making this with sliced mango, and it was a delicious combination. Or, add a diced avocado for an additional kick of nutrients.

Fruity Asparagus Salad Recipe | Foodal.com
Fruity Asparagus Salad
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Fruity Asparagus Salad Recipe | Foodal.com
Fruity Asparagus Salad
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Ingredients
  • 1 lb green asparagus
  • 2/3 lb strawberries
  • 2/3 lb plum tomatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablesposn balsamic vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Bring salted water to boil. Peel the lower third of the asparagus stalks (if required) and place them into the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. They should not get too soft.
  2. Take out the spears and let them cool and then cut into bite-sized pieces. Wash and quarter the strawberries and halve the plum tomatoes.
  3. Put the berries and vegetables in a large bowl and add the oil and vinegar, lemon juice and mix with salt and pepper.
Recipe Notes

Fruity Asparagus Salad Recipe | Foodal.com

 

Quick And Creamy Asparagus Soup

This soup doesn’t use heavy cream or added fat, yet it is really smooth and refreshing to eat.

Quick And Creamy Asparagus Soup | Foodal.com

Although white asparagus is the preferred variety to use in this dish when it’s made in Germany, it is also made with the green type when they’re in season, as is shown here.

Quick And Creamy Asparagus Soup Recipe | Foodal.com
Quick And Creamy Asparagus Soup
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Quick And Creamy Asparagus Soup Recipe | Foodal.com
Quick And Creamy Asparagus Soup
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Ingredients
  • 1 lb green or white asparagus*
  • pinch salt and sugar
  • 1 onion
  • 1 Tbspn butter
  • 1 Tbspn flour
  • 1 Tbspn Lemon juice
  • 2 Tbspn sour cream
  • 1 cup croutons
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Peel and cut the asparagus. Bring to boil in a pot and cook until soft for approx. 20 minutes. Then drain but keep the stock.
  2. Peel and dice the onion. Melt the butter in a pot, add the onions and then pour in the flour and lightly sautée until it has a nice yellow color. Gradually add the stock and keep on stirring.
  3. Simmer for around 10 minutes. Then add the vegetables, sour cream, salt, pepper and the lemon juice. Blend everything until smooth.
  4. Garnish with the croutons and serve.
Recipe Notes

*White Asparagus is the traditional choice for this dish but it can also be made with green as shown here.

Quick And Creamy Asparagus Soup Recipe | Foodal.com

 

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About Nina-Kristin Isensee

Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.

44 thoughts on “Asparagus Season Has Arrived

  1. I’ve been eating asparagus my whole life and I never would have thought to try it with fruits. I’ll definitely have to try that. The soup recipe also looks super easy to replicate, and it sounds like the end result is super tasty. Useful tips for finding the best stalks as well!

  2. Although I do enjoy the recipes you’ve mentioned in the article, there are 2 favorite ones that I absolutely cannot resist. I’m talking about the chicken asparagus roll-ups, I love the taste of mayonnaise and mustard in those! Also, the risotto you make with the asparagus leaves me wanting for more!

  3. Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and besides having it as a breakfast dish, I also use it chopped up in stir fries or with pasta dishes. When roasted, it is easy to make and is versatile to eat by itself of chopped up and tossed into a salad. Using it in soups is great and I mix it with spinach for an extra dose of green vegetables.

    • That’s a nice combination! Asparagus and spinach work well together – and look great too! It’s quite versatile, you’re right. I am always looking for recipes that use ingredients/vegetables in ways I haven’t tried them before. Experimenting by oneself and discovering new ideas is always a joy too.

  4. I’ve always been a huge fan of asparagus. Pickled asparagus is a new favourite that I got into last fall. However, that’s not much of a spring vegetable thing. This summer I’m tossing asparagus on a grill to optimize the flavour. Don’t knock me if I wrap it in a bit of prosciutto too.

  5. Oh, I love the sound (and look!) of your fruity asparagus salad! That’s completely new to me, and a recipe I would really love to try before the season is over.

    Like you, I prefer to eat asparagus when in season – it just doesn’t taste the same otherwise, so I go completely mad with it for a short while. My favourite way to eat it is to very lightly steam it, and dip it into a soft boiled egg fresh from one of my hens that day.

    I will definitely give the fruity salad a go this week – thank you!

  6. I’ve never eaten asparagus, much less bought it or cooked it. I’m thinking that might have to change. That salad looks Really great!
    Thank you for the tips and recipes! This is going to have to get bookmarked.

  7. I haven’t eaten much asparagus, so this seemed like a good article to read. I’m surprised to learn that I should peel at least part of them, and I wasn’t aware that the white variety even existed. I like the idea of using the vacuum sealer to freeze the asparagus, because that could simplify meal preparation, and your soup recipe looks very tasty.

    I love the Lynne’s Notes, and I had no idea that farmer’s markets could (or would) sell produce they hadn’t grown themselves, those sneaks! That’s something I will check into, because I’ve been to a huge one in Houston, and now I’m wondering whether it was all from this area, or imported from other locations.

  8. Growing up in an Asian household, we didn’t really eat asparagus (and even during the summer when we grill things we grilled other veggies like bell peppers and zucchini or just had salads). I didn’t really start eating asparagus until maybe beginning of college and it was love at first taste.

    Asparagus is one of those vegetables that you can do anything with; cold salad, warm pasta toss, soups, etc (okay not everything, maybe not dessert). I have this great pasta recipe that calls for asparagus and sun-dried tomato and mozzarella…makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

    However, my go-to recipe is still the oldie: olive oil, salt, pepper, and pop it in the oven.

  9. I love asparagus but have been stuck eating it baked or boiled with butter and water. I think I want to try the soup it reminds me of a kid and eating pea soup. When the next holiday comes I will try the fruit salad recipe and I hope the adults enjoy it. Sometimes when you offer a new salad people will look at you funny – however I’m still up for the challenge. Thank you!

    • I know what you mean. In my family, asparagus was also always served boiled with butter sauce and potatoes aside.
      Eventually, I started collecting different recipes and I enjoyed preparing it in lots of ways. And indeed, I could convince my family of some new ideas. So I hope you’ll be lucky with the salad too. When I first prepared it, I was really surprised of how well the berries and the asparagus go together.

  10. Personally, I don’t enjoy asparagus as much as my family does, but I’m definitely attracted to the pictures you have provided for each recipe. The tips you gave for picking the spears were extremely helpful as well; I like how you categorized the aspects of the vegetable. I’ll attempt at making the fruity salad for my family; that shouldn’t be too terribly difficult. 🙂

    • Thank you! Especially when it comes to asparagus, there are different aspects that are important concerning the freshness, so I tried to find an appropriate guide. I am glad it is helpful 🙂 I hope your family will like the salad, but I’m sure the fresh-and-fruity mix will be a winner.

  11. This guide was so helpful! Up until now, I hadn’t found a good and concise guide to for harvesting these beautify and tasty spears. I appreciate the different cooking methods, I’ll be trying the half boiled half steamed method. The salad looks amazing too!

  12. I haven’t actually tried asparagus soup. I eat it from time to time but I bet this is going to be really good. I didn’t know that this is what makes it a diuretic. It is so good for you to eat. Seems to digest really well too.

  13. I am always on the lookout for interesting veggies so I will keep my eyes peeled for white asparagus!
    You’re right though I have not noticed them here in North America at all.

  14. Wow, this post explains a lot of my asparagus troubles in the past. Not once, ever, have I tried your methods to check and make sure I’m getting a fresh product. I’ve also never peeled my asparagus. Very helpful, thank you! I want to branch out more with my vegetable cooking, because I largely stick to what I know… stir fry! Don’t get me wrong, I love my stir fry, and have honed my stir fry making to a yummy Alex- brand. However, stir fry gets old and I want to incorporate vegetables more into my diet. So, I look forward to trying these methods!

    • Thank you, I’m pleased to hear that this will help you when buying asparagus the next time.
      I totally understand what you mean. One often sticks to the ingredients and ways of preparation one is good at and one knows how to work with, I often catch myself doing the same 😉 But once you tried it, I’m sure you are going to include it to your permanent collection for some tasteful variety!

  15. I really do like asparagus, and always use the tip in this article about allowing the spears to snap naturally so that you only get the fresh part of the vegetable, there’s nothing worse than trying to chew through a mouthful of what feels and tastes like wood!

    • You’re so right, this is an important step for asparagus. Sometimes, when eating out and ordering asparagus when it’s fresh here in Germany, I have experienced that it had this woody nuance, and it’s just not a pleasure to eat it.

  16. I’m a big fan of asparagus but I have never tried the white variety, I don’t think I have ever seen it, I’ll look for it during my next grocery store trip. The soup recipe sounds amazing and very easy to make, thank you for sharing it, I’ll try it out as soon as possible. I also love it mixed with risotto, I could eat it every day! Another one of my favourite recipes it include it in is frittata, it tastes very good and my dinner guests love it.
    I had never thought about combining fresh spears with fruit, I’ll definitely try out your fruity salad recipe, thank you.

    • That is really an interesting fact, because here in Germany the white variety is soo popular. It seems like this is really a country-specific thing. But maybe you’re lucky and you’ll find some sticks somewhere, I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
      As a big fan of risotto in general, I totally agree with you. This veggie is a perfect addition. Including it in frittatas seems like a wonderful idea too, though! Hope you like the salad, I ‘m always surprised again how well the ingredients fit together.

  17. That salad is a must-try! What a gorgeous plate.

    This is one of my favorite vegetables. I’ve actually never had the white variety, though, and will have to check it out.

    • Happy you like the combination!
      Although the white one is much more common where I live, I just love the green stalks. Maybe, it’s because of the nice dash of color on the plate 🙂

      However, if you ever get the chance to try the other sort, go ahead, and enjoy the diversity!

  18. Oh my gosh! I had no idea I had to peel asparagus! This is definitely my aha moment in regards to asparagus. I have made SEVERAL failed attempts at making asparagus and it always results in rubbery, tasteless food. We are trying desperately to incorporate more veggies in our diet and everyone seems to rave about asparagus but I could never get it right lol. Thank you for the info!

    • I’m glad that this article could help you for the next time you’ll be serving this great veggie. I’m sure it will work out better then. Hope you have fun including the colorful stalks in various dishes!

  19. I’ve cooked asparagus for forever and never have thought to peel it. Perhaps that is because I never buy the fatter stalks. I also don’t buy the very thin stalks. I guess I choose the happy medium so the entire stalk gets cooked. I’ve taken to “cutting” the stalks although I once heard you should snap them because “asparagus will tell you where it wants to be cooked.” But I found I was wasting too much that way.

    Currently, my favorite way to cook it is to line spears up in a cast iron spear and roll them back and forth until they get brown/black. When the skillet is piping hot, I add butter in the middle and coat the spears. Then I add just enough vegetable stock to cook them to fork tender. It’s amazing flavor. Thanks for the other ideas! I’m looking forward to summer already.

    • Thanks for you comment – and your delicious serving idea. I could have a portion right away and it has come just in time for the veggie’s season start here in Germany. While I thought about preparing some stalks the way I’m used to, I think I’m going with your recipe tomorrow 🙂 Thanks for the idea!

  20. As a student of biochemistry, I found the bit about asparagine interesting! Now I know where the name came from! And I didn’t know the difference between the white and green varieties. This is a vegetable I absolutely adore in many forms, especially with salmon and a drizzle of lemon and pepper. And like other people here, I was unaware you could peel them – I always ended up with chewy, hard to eat asparagus. Not anymore!

    • That sounds delicious! I think salmon works amazing with this veggie – sometimes it doesn’t have to be a fancy combination. Simple things like this can make a fantastic meal, too!
      I’m happy that I could provide you with some helpful information concerning the peeling. And I hope, in the future you will enjoy some crunchy, tasty stalks!

  21. I love lightly steamed asparagus with butter and freshly grated pepper – and to eat them with my fingers. We have a lot of the wild variety growing locally along the edges of the vineyards and the forest – I pick a bunch each day and, as they’re so slender (and squeaky!) barely pass them over hot water – just enough so that the butter will melt.

    • Oh that sounds amazing. I would love to have the opportunity of picking some wild grown stalks nearby. I think they must taste wonderful. And again, not much else is needed to turn them into a fantastic meal. The combination of butter and pepper gets the best out of it, I suppose. A wonderful fresh and healthy summer dish 🙂

  22. Thanks for covering one of my favorite veggies. Asparagus is extremely underappreciated, which I think is due to the stories how it makes your pee smell bad. While this is true, it is a delicious vegetable. After several different preparation methods, I still find that the best way to cook them is a simple coat in oil, salt, and pepper and throw them on the grill. I feel that a nice char really brings out the natural flavor. I definitely want to try the Fruits Asparagus Salad recipe though. It seems interesting!

    • I think you’re right – that might really be one of the reasons.
      Plus, I agree with you on grilling the stalks. As several other readers have also mentioned this, that brings out a wonderful flavor. With some seasoning and some drippings of oil, it makes a perfect veggie dish 🙂
      However, enjoy the fruity salad – it’s a nice combination as well.

  23. Thanks for the soup recipe! I will certainly try that very soon. I may be biased towards this, but anyone who doesn’t like this veggie should really consider to BBQ it for a bit! It’s mouthwatering and it really is an explosion of flavours together with that typical charred BBQ taste. Now I’m hungry!

  24. I always thought that I wouldn’t like the taste because I’m not the type of person to try out new veggies and I’m a texture person as well. If something is too slimy, squishy, rough, etc. it throws me off and I won’t eat it. All of the ladies in my office love asparagus so they finally convinced me to try it and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised!! It was actually pretty good!!

    The most recent “concoction” I tried was my favorite. She took the asparagus, whole, tossed it in olive oil and sprinkled parmesan cheese on top of it. She threw it in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes and it came out delicious!

    I want to go to the store now and buy some so I can try it at home but I never knew what to look for. I think the easiest thing for me would be the squeaky trick, definitely something to try. I can’t wait to start cooking them now!!

    • It’s great to hear that you could have been convinced to try it 😉 Even better that you enjoyed it! Roasting the veggies in the oven is a fantastic way to prepare them – especially with some parmesan on top, yummy! Thanks for the tip and the instruction.
      I hope you will be lucky finding some squeaky fresh stalks!

  25. Well I have really had a love hate relationship with asparagus throughout my life, with much of the hatred coming in my early years. I used to never ever give this one a shot when I was growing up, and even when I did I remember not caring for it much at all. Soon enough, though, I came around, but I still only like it certain ways. It is very good for you though, so I try to work it in as much as I can.

    • I agree with you! When I was younger and my parents would like to make it for dinner, I always asked for something else, because I didn’t like it at all! Nowadays, I wish I hadn’t been so stubborn 😉 And I also have my favorite ways of preparation, roasting them in a pan is definitely one of them!

  26. Roasted or sauteed asparagus with garlic and butter are usually the only two ways I have eaten the veggie. It is such a classic accompaniment to steak so that is usually when I consume it. I will have to try the asparagus salad recipe mentioned in the article and find a few more interesting ones, too.

    • Yummy! You’re definitely right, that is one great side to steak, it’s a perfect and complete meal – great as a low-carb alternative, too. I hope you’ll like the salad and enjoy making it!

  27. Oh, thank you for this information. This is one of my favorite veggies, yet I haven’t had the best luck with cooking it. I don’t always get the texture that I want, and I thought the key too it was not cooking it too long. Good to know that you can do it longer.

    I’ve managed to make it passably a few times, but it’s usually hit or miss. Now, I have more to work with. I didn’t even know it needed peeling, so that should definitely help.

    • I’m happy that these information could help you, I’m sure your next asparagus dish will be successful. The peeling will make it taste much better, enjoy it 🙂

  28. Our family is actually very good with eating fresh veggies (and fruits) daily. With each dinner, we ALWAYS include a veggie. Recently, I have introduced asparagus to my kiddos, and they LOVE it! I typically have a hard time getting them to eat some of the green veggies, so I thought it would be difficult. I cooked them in butter, with a pinch of salt and they asked for seconds!! I think we will start eating asparagus more often. Its not on a daily basis they ask for seconds on veggies, though they will eat the first amount given on their plates.

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