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Asparagus 101: How to Buy and Cook Asparagus

Asparagus is one of those vegetable that can strike fear into the hearts of newer home cooks since it seems sort of fancy. But learning to how to buy  and cook asparagus can really change your kitchen game- especially if you want to start eating seasonally. I’m gonna break down all the basics of asparagus for you right here so you can rock this spring veggie with the best of them.

Asparagus spears on white

How to Buy and Cook Asparagus

But it’s not to pick out the best fresh asparagus at the store or farmer’s market this time of year. Fresh asparagus is at its best between February and June. You can find it other times of the year, too, but it tends to be tastier and more affordable in the spring.

How to Buy Fresh Asparagus

The best fresh asparagus is easy to find in the store or farmer’s market between February and June. You can find it other times of the year too, but it’s tastier and more affordable in the spring when it’s in season.

When you shop for fresh asparagus, check out the color of the asparagus and the tips. You want to choose the most vibrantly colored asparagus (unless its white) for the best flavor. The tips should be firm and bright green or tinged with purple. Avoid the spears with droopy or yellowing tips.

Also, while some people don’t mind thicker spears, I prefer thinner asparagus spears. The thicker spears tend to be a bit on the woodier side while the thinner spears tend to be more tender.

Asparagus FAQs

Asparagus chopped into thirds

How to Buy and Cook Asparagus: Asparagus chopped into thirds

Can you eat the whole thing?

You should definitely not eat the whole asparagus spear. Cut the woody ends off of the asparagus spears.

How much should I cut off?

Most people recommend you cut off the bottom inch of the asparagus spears. I find the amount you need to cut off varies from spear to spear. Also, it seems that you need to cut off more of the bottom if the spear is thicker.

What color should asparagus be?

There are several varieties of asparagus. Most of the asparagus you will see in the store will be green. For green asparagus, the tips should be bright green, maybe even tinged with purple. You should avoid green asparagus that has any yellowing in the tips.

You can also buy purple and white asparagus. Purple asparagus should be a vibrant purple on the outside. It will be green on the inside, and sadly lose its pretty purple color when cooked. However, purple asparagus is sweeter and more tender than green and white varieties so it is really yummy eaten raw.

White asparagus is green asparagus that is grown under the soil away from sunlight. The flavor tends to be more muted than green asparagus and it can be a bit more woody to the point that many people recommend peeling the outer layers away of the white asparagus.

Can I eat asparagus raw?

You can! Purple asparagus has a sweeter, more mellow flavor than green asparagus so it is particularly nice when eaten raw. You can also eat green asparagus raw. Shaving the asparagus or making asparagus ribbons is a great way to enjoy raw asparagus.

Will it make my pee smell?

Yes, it probably will make your pee smell. And if you are a tribe of asparagus children, you might be embarrassed because your pee smells. (Thanks Elf.)

According to Smithsonian Mag, asparagus makes your pee smell because the body converts the asparagusic acid into sulfur-containing compounds. Sulfur is the stuff that’s released when eggs rot. It’s particularly pungent.

No worries though, if you eat asparagus, your pee won’t smell forever. Just for a few hours after eating it.

How to Cook Asparagus

Lemon Chicken and Asparagus Skillet

Asparagus makes a great addition to one skillet meals

You can cook asparagus so many different ways. You can boil it, roast it, put it in soup and salad, or cook it on the stove top.

Boiling asparagus

I’ll be honest, this is my least favorite way to cook asparagus and I almost never do it. However, if you do it, drop asparagus into boiling water and cook it for 3-5 minutes. Then drain the water and drop the asparagus directly into an ice bath to stop it from cooking. This is key so you don’t wind up with mushy asparagus.

Roasting asparagus

This is my favorite way to cook asparagus. It gets an addictive rich flavor in the oven. We have roasted asparagus as a side all the time. I just drizzle some olive oil on, some lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper. Then I pop it into the oven for around 8-10 minutes depending on how thick it is. So much yum.

Stove top asparagus

Cooking asparagus on the stove top is particularly handy if you want to make a one skillet dinner or put it in a light pasta sauce. For skillet dinners and pasta sauces, I chop the spears into smaller pieces, generally thirds or quarters and saute them in olive oil.

Asparagus Recipes

These are some of my favorite asparagus recipes:

Other awesome asparagus recipes from around the web:

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Karly

Wednesday 15th of May 2019

Great tips!

jfletcher

Saturday 13th of July 2019

Thank you!

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