Asparagus—especially white—used to be considered a sure sign of spring, but crops from South America are starting to show up year-round. White asparagus’s lack of color comes from being grown under mounded earth, and you’ll notice blunter tips and more fragile stalks than on green asparagus. Look for firm, fresh-looking stalks; pass on those that look woody, yellowed, brown, or dried out.
To prepare white asparagus for cooking, bend the lower end of the stalk and discard what breaks off naturally, which is the tough bit. While green asparagus has a grassier, more pronounced flavor, white asparagus’ milder flavor is best shown off when you cook it simply. Poach or steam it and then nap it with brown butter and crisped pancetta. Or drizzle it with garlic mayonnaise, pistachio or walnut oil, or a zippy mustard vinaigrette.