How To Buy and Store Asparagus
You know it's springtime when fresh asparagus takes over the produce section. Here's what to look for when you're buying asparagus. And once you get them home, here's how to store asparagus spears so they'll stay fresher longer.
How to Buy Asparagus
1. Choose Pristine Buds
The tips have the best flavor, so make sure they are firm and unwilted. Do a sniff test, too. Asparagus that's past its prime gets smelly fast.
- Stalks should be plump and firm, and tips should be tightly closed.
- Color can be green, purple, or white, depending on the variety. Make sure the color is not faded.
- A good grocer will chill asparagus or store it standing upright in cold, fresh water.
2. Try for Same-Size Stalks
Asparagus comes in several sizes, ranging in diameter from thinner than a drinking straw to fatter than your thumb. If you're shopping at a farmers' market, you might be able to ask the seller to put together a bundle of stalks that are the same size. Otherwise, doing that in a grocery store could earn you some hard stares.
- Thin, tender spears can be sautéed, steamed, or rubbed lightly with olive oil and grilled.
- Fatter asparagus spears will need to be trimmed and either steamed or boiled in order to be tender.
- While some people prefer the smaller spears for their delicacy and tenderness, others like thick asparagus for its more robust flavor and meaty texture.
Related: How to Cook Asparagus 6 Easy Ways
3. Buy in Season for the Best Prices
Grocery stores often bring in asparagus to coincide with big holiday meals, but that means you'll pay higher prices than you normally would. Fresh asparagus grown in Mexico shows up soon after New Year's, but if you're buying a locally grown crop, you won't see it in the market until springtime. If you're in Florida, that means February; further north, it's closer to April. Buying in season also means much cheaper prices.
How to Store Asparagus
Asparagus is a one-night-only type of vegetable — it doesn't store well, and it usually doesn't make for great leftovers. For the freshest flavor, try to buy and eat asparagus on the same day.
- If you do plan to store it in your refrigerator for a few days after you get it home, treat it like a bouquet of flowers: Trim a small amount from the bottoms of the stalks with a sharp knife and place them in a big jar with a little water in the bottom. Cover the top loosely with a plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator. Change the water daily. This will help keep the stalks firm and crisp for a few days until you are ready to cook them.
- You can also wrap the trimmed asparagus ends with a damp paper towel and store the stalks in a plastic bag.
Did You Know?
White asparagus is just green asparagus that hasn't seen the light of day. To keep it from turning green, it's grown in total darkness under mounds of dirt. Popular in Europe, white asparagus is tender and mild. Find out more about the underground cult of white asparagus.
Related: Check out our complete collection of Asparagus Recipes.