The woody stem ends of mature asparagus spears must be removed before cooking. When served whole, all but the pencil-thin spears also require peeling of the tough skin from about mid-spear to the base.
1. Using a small, sharp knife, cut off the woody stem end of each asparagus spear. Alternatively, firmly grasp the end and snap it off; the stalk will break naturally at the proper point.
2. Using a vegetable peeler or an asparagus peeler, strip away the tough outer skin of the asparagus spear, starting 1 to 2 inches below the base of the tip and cutting slightly thicker as you near the end.
Complete Seasons Cookbook, Joanne Weir, 2000, 0-7370-2032-6, Time-Life Books, Williams-Sonoma