How To Choose, Store, And Cook Asparagus Perfectly Every Time
Asparagus is a springtime favorite and one of the earliest vegetables to pop up after the long winter. Use this guide to learn how to pick, store, and cook asparagus perfectly so you can make the most of this special vegetable and season.
Asparagus is a classic spring vegetable and one of the first to pop up through the cold soil after a long winter. Here in New England seeing local asparagus at the grocery store is the positive sign many of us need that Spring and warmer weather is finally on its way, and if you have ever tried asparagus out of season you know that there really is nothing like fresh spring asparagus.
Asparagus is a perennial, which means that you can plant it and it will continue to come back and grow year after year. In fact, some asparagus plants can live over 20-30 years if cared for correctly. While there are many different types of asparagus, including many heirloom varieties, the main kinds you will see in the grocery store or farmers market fall into three different color categories: white, purple, and green asparagus.
Fun Fact: White asparagus is only white because when it is planted it is covered in a thick layer of mulch and cloth/plastic covering that makes it so no sunlight can reach the asparagus. This means that photosynthesis doesn’t take place so the asparagus never is able to turn green.
While the different colors in asparagus can represent higher concentrations of certain antioxidants, generally speaking, the nutritional content of asparagus depends mostly on the quality of the soil it was grown in, and won’t vary significantly from one type to another (although purple and green asparagus will have the highest quantities of antioxidants).
When Is Asparagus In Season?
Spring! Asparagus is one of the first vegetables to pop up in the spring and tastes significantly better when it is purchased in season. Once you know what fresh, in-season asparagus tastes like it will be hard to ever go back to buying it out of season at the grocery store again
Nutritional Benefits Of Asparagus:
Asparagus packs a big nutritional punch for a simple stalk and is high in many essential vitamins and nutrients essential for maintaining optimal digestion, reducing stress, and meeting daily nutrient needs.
Excellent source of folate
High in vitamin A, C, and K
High in dietary fiber (good for digestion)
High in antioxidants (stress and free radical fighting compounds)
Low in calories (20 calories per cup)
How To Pick The Best Asparagus:
Have you ever picked up a bunch of asparagus only to get home and find that some of the tips of the asparagus are wet and slimy, or the asparagus seems somewhat limp and lacks flavor when you cook it?
This has happened to the best of us and is a good reminder that asparagus really is one of those vegetables that should always be purchased in season and from the freshest source possible — ideally your local farmer.
So to help you avoid choosing a bad bunch of asparagus from here on out here are a few things you should look for and keep in mind when choosing your asparagus.
Thinner asparagus stalks will be more tender than thicker stalks, which are a more mature plant. Neither one is necessarily better than the other but you may find you enjoy one over the other.
Look for vibrant green asparagus stalks with a green or slightly purple tip.
The stalks of the asparagus should feel firm and stand up on their own.
Avoid stalks that appear “woody” or tough throughout most of their stalk. These will be very fibrous and are found on plants that were let to mature a little too long.
Take a look at the tip of the asparagus. It should be closed together (not open) and dry. If you notice that the tip is open, appears slimy or wet, and black color it is an indicator that the asparagus has gone bad.
How To Store Asparagus:
Ideally, it is always best to use your asparagus as close to your purchase date as possible, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. So if you do need to store your asparagus use the following instructions as a guide to keeping asparagus fresh as long as possible, or store for use long after asparagus season has come and gone.
Before storing cut the root ends with a fresh ½ inch cut
Then place in a glass with 1 inch of ice cold water in the refrigerator.
Make sure to change the water daily
Depending on how fresh your asparagus is you may be able to store it for up to one week.
Note: It is also important to not wash the asparagus before storing.
Choose asparagus that are on the thicker side for freezing, which will help ensure that the frozen asparagus remain firm in texture after thawing.
Next, remove the ends of your asparagus by holding a spear in each hand and bending until the end snaps off. You can compost the tough bottom ends or save with all your other veggie scraps in the freezer to make vegetable broth later.
You can leave the asparagus as spears or chop into smaller pieces depending on your personal preference and what you think you will use the frozen asparagus for.
Next, bring a large pot of water to boil on medium-high heat, and add the asparagus in the water for 2-3 minutes (we are only blanching it) and then place immediately in a bowl of ice water.
Drain the asparagus and allow to dry before placing flat on a baking sheet and freezing in the freezer for 1-2 hours.
Once the asparagus is frozen you can store in a bag or tupperware in the freezer and use as needed throughout the year.
How To Reduce Food Waste
More than 90% of food scraps in the United States are throw away, which contributes to the ~40% of all food produced resulting in food waste. While some food scrapes really may not be able to be avoided, there is so much more that we can do as individuals to reduce our personal household food waste.
Luckily asparagus is a vegetable that we eat almost in its entirety excluding the bottom tough part of the stems. While I definitely wouldn’t recommend consuming this part of the asparagus (it would be very tough on your digestion) there are a few ways that you can reduce food waste.
Save the ends of your asparagus in a bag or tupperware in the refrigerator with the rest of your veggie scraps. Once the bag or tupperware is full, use the scraps to make a veggie broth.
Compost the asparagus ends. If you have a home compost absolutely throw your asparagus ends into the compost. This way they will break down and will avoid contributing to waste in your local landfill.
How To Cook Asparagus:
Asparagus is one of those veggies that really tastes best cooked. Given it’s fibrous texture the process of cooking asparagus makes it much easier to digest and enhances the overall flavor of this spring vegetable. Just make sure not to overcook it though, which can result in a loss in nutrients and a generally mushy, unappetizing vegetable.
Roasted asparagus is absolutely delicious and easy to make. Simply preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and place your asparagus on a baking sheet or in an oven safe pan. Coat the asparagus with a generous amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Shaking the asparagus half way through to allow each side to cook evenly.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a pinch of salt. Place the asparagus in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes (or in a steaming colander if you would prefer to steam them). Once the stalks turn bright green you know it is time to remove them from the pot.
Once the stalks are cooked remove them from the boiling water and immediately place them in ice cold water to stop the asparagus from continuing to cook. This will help keep the asparagus nice and firm and cooked to perfection.
If you love grilling then you have to add grilled asparagus to your grill nights. Once you get the grill nice and hot, place asparagus that has been coated in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper either directly onto the grill (if you want those grill marks) or on a piece of tin foil/in a grill colander. Grill for 2-5 minutes, or until the asparagus turns bright green and is slightly softened.
Asparagus Recipes You Will Love
If you love asparagus and want some inspiration for how you can move beyond simply grilling or baking it in the oven then check out these delicious, seasonal recipes to get you excited to get cooking up some asparagus in the kitchen.
What’s Your Favorite Way To Enjoy Asparagus? Leave A Comment Below!