How to cook asparagus: A handy guide

The asparagus season is almost upon us! Find out how to cook asparagus the right way and other things you may not know about it yet. Late February to June is the prime season this royal vegetable gets harvested and you can buy the freshest bunch at the supermarkets around the country. This article will tell you everything you need (and needn’t) know about this speary plant, as well as tips on storing and cooking it.

Did you know…?

Asparagus would turn into a huge fern-like tree if we let it grow. What we love and consume are the very young plants that still take whole 3 to 4 years to mature. Green pencil-thick asparagus is most widespread in the US, though you might also see the meatier white and purple varieties occasionally.

Have you noticed that your urine smells funky after eating it? This phenomenon known as asparagus pee has been recorded as early as 1702 by the French botanist Louis Lémery. Asparagusic acid – a chemical that is unique to this plant – is the culprit. While all of us produce asparagus pee, only about half of the world population can smell it.

Here’s how to store asparagus properly

Don’t waste a single stalk and extend the lifetime of your bunch from two days to almost a week with this simple trick.

Cut off the dry bits of the stem at the bottom to expose the fresh part of the plant. Fill a mason jar with about ½ inch of water and place the asparagus inside. Loosely cover it with plastic wrap (or, better yet, a breathable produce bag) and store in the fridge.

Keep changing the water when it gets murky, and it will still be as good as new for about another 7 days. Keep an eye on the heads of the plant though: they start to droop when it is about to go bad.

Got some more leftovers? Find out how to handle leftover food.

What is the best way to cook asparagus?

Whichever way you choose to prepare your asparagus, make sure that you thoroughly wash it and scrape any remaining sand off the tips and snap the woody parts off before you begin.

Steaming or blanching it is the low-calorie option, plus you can (under)cook it to be just right for your taste. In order to blanch it, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil first. Place the stalks inside for 3-4 minutes and quickly transfer them to ice water for another 3 minutes to preserve the color.

If you are in a hurry, place the asparagus into a microwave-safe dish with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes stirring once until tender.

But how to cook asparagus the best way? Roast it! Start by preheating the oven to 425 F (220 C). Toss each bunch with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of coarse salt and a pinch of pepper. You can also coat it in parmesan, garlic or paprika if you are looking for something extra. Arrange it in a single layer and bake for 12-15 minutes depending on thickness. Finally, refine with freshly squeezed lemon juice and enjoy!


Photos by Carly Jayne & Stephanie Studer

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