Asparagus is in season from April until July so now is the time to indulge in this lovely, luscious vegetable.

There is nothing like a gently steaming pile of asparagus dripping with butter to add a little delicious luxury to your meal.

It can be served steamed as a starter on its own with just some salt, pepper, and butter. Or it can be a tasty side dish when grilled with some parmesan cheese melted over the spears and a squirt of lemon juice.

It has a very delicate flavour that goes well with any food.

Don't be daunted by this elegant ingredient which is actually not a vegetable at all but a member of the lily family. It is easy to prepare and will definitely add the wow factor to your menu.

The following tips will help you shop for, store, and cook asparagus with confidence.

Buying Asparagus

Asparagus is usually sold in bunches. For an appetiser plan on about 6-7 stalks per person. Look for thick stalks that are bright green. They should have a little 'give' but not be floppy or wilted.

Make sure that the stalks are all roughly the same size. This will ensure even cooking.

If you see purple asparagus while you are out shopping don't be too impressed. It turns green when cooked and doesn't differ in flavour from the green kind.

White asparagus is not a particular variety of the plant. It simply the green variety grown in special conditions that decreases its exposure to sunlight.

Storing Asparagus

When cooking with asparagus fresh is best but it will keep no problem in the fridge for a good few days. You don't need to wrap or bag it. Just keep it tied in its bunch until you need it. Don't be tempted to stand it in water like a cut flower.

As always finding a good local source important. The less time produce is travelling the fresher and better it is.

Preparing Asparagus

To prepare asparagus spears for cooking remove only an inch or two of the woody ends and give it a quick rinse in cold water.

It is usually grown in sand and cleans off easily.

Cooking Asparagus

Asparagus requires very little cooking and it best when cooked simply so you can enjoy the distinctive flavour.

If you are steaming it only put the asparagus in once the water is boiling. It will take less than five minutes. After three minutes test the thickest spear with a knife. If the knife easily penetrates the spear then your asparagus is done.

Alternatively you can boil it in about an inch of water in a shallow pan.

Grilled asparagus is also delicious. It only takes three or four minutes.

Serving Asparagus

Asparagus can be served hot or cold with lemon juice, butter, parmesan cheese and olive oil, or hollandaise sauce.