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Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - Page updated at 02:30 p.m.

Asparagus: synonymous with spring

By Mario Batali
Syndicated Columnist

It's easy to forget about asparagus' seasonality because it's available year-round. But local asparagus has a freshness unlike that available in November. There is nothing better than seeing these beautiful spears at the local market.

Trees are in blossom. Spring is here.

Asparagus has been known as a sign of spring since the time of Imperial Rome. The word "asparagus" comes from the Greek "asparagos," meaning "to spring up." The ancient Greeks used the term to refer to any tender shoots picked from the spring earth and savored when still young.

When shopping for asparagus, choose stalks that are firm but not hard. As with artichokes, you should look carefully at the leaves that form at the head. The most succulent asparagus will have tightly closed tips that are purplish in color.

Asparagus can be blanched, grilled or steamed, and served simply with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. But this citrus-walnut pesto adds a delicious zing.

James Beard Award-winner Mario Batali, a Seattle native, is a chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality. His latest book is "Molto Batali."

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