Spring is finally here! And that means asparagus will be arriving soon at the farmers market. Cecchini & Cecchini will be back with their amazing fresh asparagus straight from the fertile fields of Brentwood.

Asparagus is harvested from March through June in California. Early in the season spears may be as thin as pencils; toward the end of the season, fatter, meatier spears become available.

Note that thickness in no way indicates tenderness, which is related to how the plant is grown and how soon it is eaten after harvest, rather than spear size.

Buy asparagus as soon as possible after it is harvested. The farmers market is your best bet for extra-tender specimens. Look for smooth skin, bright green color, compact heads, and freshly cut ends.

Look for asparagus that is as green (or purple or white in the case of purple and white varieties) as possible to ensure you are getting tender spears.

Don't forget your St. Patrick's Day vegetables. Potatoes, onions, red or green cabbages, carrots and more can be found at Halog Farms. Other tasty veggies are here from Nunez Farm and Swank Farm.

Spinach and other leafy greens, beets, spring onions and more offer great flavor and nutrition for stews, salads and soups.

Easter is arriving early this year -- March 31 -- so pick up some fresh eggs at Great Valley Poultry.

Also brightening up the market for Easter are spring flowers from Sunrise Nursery and Ochoa Nursery. Roses, alstroemeria, freesia, carnations and many other flowers are here to enjoy. And don't forget to pick up some tiger lilies for Easter celebrations.

Yes, spring has sprung and the new season's fruits and veggies will arrive fast and furious. Cherries come in May, apricots and other stone fruit in June, summer vegetables like squash, tomatoes and peppers will not be far behind.

So get out to the market and see what's new. It will be a voyage of discovery every week.

For your Easter brunch, enjoy elegant and delicious asparagus.

Farmers markets are open rain or shine.

Danville Farmers Market: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday year-round, Railroad and Prospect avenues.

Livermore Farmers Market: Sundays year-round, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at South L Street and Railroad Avenue.

Pleasanton Farmers Market: Saturdays, 9 a.m. -1 p.m. year-round, Main and W. Angela streets.

San Ramon Farmers Market: Saturdays year-round, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Bishop Ranch 2 parking lot, Bollinger Canyon Road and Sunset Drive.

The Time is Ripe is a monthly column written by Debra Morris, promotions coordinator for the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association. Contact her at debramorris@pcfma.com.