On a warm spring day you can almost hear them growing. Viewed in the field, asparagus are among the oddest of edible vegetables, sending rocket-like stalks straight out of the soil without any kind of leafy preamble. In balmy conditions, asparagus can grow from a barely visible lavender tip to a green, sweet, snapping stalk in about three days. Once the temperature rises to a certain point, the feast is done and the plant devotes a nimbus of ferny leaves and woody stems to storing energy for next year.
All of which means that through late June — and sometimes later — New England has fat bunches of native asparagus that demand to be cooked and eaten, maybe several times a week. You can steam asparagus and slap on some butter, and it’ll taste very good for those first dozen times. But if you really want to make the most of the season, it helps to have a repertoire.