Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham; Food Styling: Marian Cooper Cairns

This easy-to-cook vegetable is even easier to ruin

You simply can’t beat asparagus. And right now, farmers’ market stands and supermarkets are overflowing with fresh bundles of this springtime staple. Incorporate this versatile veggie into any meal for a dose of instant color and seasonal flavor: a quiche for breakfast, salad for lunch, or pasta for dinner. You can also dress it up or down depending on the occasion—simply steamed for an easy appetizer or gussied up for Easter lunch. You can even use it to create a show-stopping flower arrangement. There are many methods for cooking asparagus—sautéing, roasting, grilling, etc. And there are also many ways the process can go wrong. Avoid these some common mistakes the next time you’re cooking asparagus, and never eat a soggy, mushy stem again.

Related: Asparagus and Goat Cheese Mini Quiches Recipe

You’re overcooking it.

The number one mistake made when preparing asparagus is overcooking it. Take into account that the vegetable continues to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from heat or boiling water. Because it only takes a few minutes to cook, keep a close eye on it to avoid soggy, limp stems as the outcome. Take it out of the oven or off the stove a minute or so before you think it’s done to avoid overcooking. Another way to prevent overcooking is to shock the asparagus in an ice bath. Once you remove asparagus from the heat, pour the veggies in a bowl of ice-cold water. The cold water will stop the cooking process as well as bring out the vegetable’s naturally bright color and maintain its crisp texture.

You’re not getting to the farmers’ market early enough.

When you arrive at the later end of a Saturday morning farmers’ market, most of the good stuff has already been picked, and you’re left with a subpar selection. Don’t buy stalks that look dried out, shriveled, or look less than fresh. Set your alarm an hour earlier to get the best pick—we promise it’s worth it. Follow these tips for choosing vegetables at the farmers’ market.

You aren’t prepping the stems before cooking.

Snap off any hard ends and trim feathery tips before you start cooking. That way, the asparagus will be ready to eat as soon as it’s cooked.

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You’re not cooking it right away.

Don’t let fresh asparagus waste away in your fridge! It’s best the first few days after it’s purchased. Check out these recipes for inspiration.

You’re still buying it canned.

Don’t take the shortcut while asparagus is in season. It’ll take just as long to cook fresh asparagus as it does to heat up the canned stuff in the microwave. Plus, canned asparagus is always mushy.