Asparagus can be eaten both raw and cooked. Thicker spears actually have a fuller flavor. There are several different types of asparagus, which are classified simply according to their color (white, green, or purple).
From Wikipedia:“Asparagus, or garden asparagus, scientific Name Asparagus officinalis, is a spring vegetable, a flowering perennial plant species in the genus Asparagus.
It was once classified in the lily family, like the related Allium species, onions and garlic, but the Liliaceae have been split and the onion-like plants are now in the Family Amaryllidaceae and asparagus in the Asparagaceae. Asparagus officinalis is native to most of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia, and is widely cultivated as a vegetable crop.”
“Water makes up 93% of asparagus's composition. Asparagus is low in calories and is very low in sodium. It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fibre, protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus, as the asparagus plant is relatively rich in this compound.”
“Certain compounds in asparagus are metabolized to yield ammonia and various sulfur-containing degradation products, including various thiols and thioesters, which give urine a characteristic smell.”
“Only young asparagus shoots are commonly eaten: once the buds start to open ("ferning out"), the shoots quickly turn woody. ...
The shoots are prepared and served in a number of ways around the world, typically as an Appetizer or vegetable side dish. In Asian-style cooking, asparagus is often stir-fried. Cantonese restaurants in the United States often serve asparagus stir-fried with chicken, shrimp, or beef. It may also be quickly grilled over charcoal or hardwood embers, and is also used as an ingredient in some stews and soups. In recent years, asparagus eaten raw, as a component of a salad, has regained popularity.
Asparagus can also be pickled and stored for several years. Some brands label shoots prepared in this way as "marinated".
Stem thickness indicates the age of the plant, with the thicker stems coming from older plants. Older, thicker stalks can be woody, although peeling the skin at the base removes the tough layer. Peeled asparagus will poach much faster. The bottom portion of asparagus often contains sand and soil, so thorough cleaning is generally advised before cooking.”
Availability and celebrations:
“Green asparagus is eaten worldwide, though the availability of imports throughout the year has made it less of a delicacy than it once was. In Europe, however, the "asparagus season is a highlight of the foodie calendar"; in the UK this traditionally begins on 23 April and ends on Midsummer Day. As in continental Europe, due to the short growing season and demand for local produce, asparagus commands a premium price.”
“Many German cities hold an annual Spargelfest (asparagus festival) celebrating the harvest of white asparagus. Schwetzingen claims to be the "Asparagus Capital of the World", and during its festival, an Asparagus Queen is crowned. The Bavarian city of Nuremberg feasts a week long in April, with a competition to find the fastest asparagus peeler in the region. This usually involves generous amounts of the local wines and beers being consumed to aid the spectators' appreciative support.”
“Asparagus is very popular in the Netherlands, Spain, France, Poland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Turkey, Italy, and Switzerland, and is almost exclusively white; if not, it is specified by the local language term for "green asparagus". White asparagus is the result of applying a blanching technique while the asparagus shoots are growing. To cultivate white asparagus, the shoots are covered with soil as they grow, i.e. earthed up; without exposure to sunlight, no photosynthesis starts, and the shoots remain white. Compared to green asparagus, the locally cultivated so-called "white gold" or "edible ivory" asparagus, also referred to as "the royal vegetable", is believed to be less bitter and much more tender. Freshness is very important, and the lower ends of white asparagus must be peeled before cooking or raw consumption.”