Chip Arnett has a mission in life: to debunk the myth that thick asparagus is always tough and thin asparagus is always young and tender. "Tenderness has to do with age, not necessarily size," explains Arnett, owner of Mister Spear, Inc., a mail-order produce company. And the thin spears labeled "baby asparagus" in markets might not be young at all. "Skinny spears often come from tired, overworked plants," Arnett explains. "Thick spears usually come from young, healthy ones." If thick spears are tough when you buy them, he adds, it's probably because of the way they've been handled. According to Arnett, many grocery chains stockpile asparagus in cold storage, periodically dribbling their wooden crates with ice water to keep the vegetables looking fresh. Often, the moisture is insufficient, and the stalks arrive in stores dehydrated.