Asparagus how to store, cook and eat it
Fresh asparagus should have crisp, not bendy or soft stalks, the tips should be firm and held tightly together, walk away from anything less. I would also urge, only eat asparagus when it is in season, for New Zealand, September – December. Personally, lightly steamed and dripping in butter is the way to eat this stunning shoot. It is rumored that Julius Caesar loved it this way, who knows, it was certainly cultivated by the Romans more than 2000 years ago.
Top tip, store your purchase standing up in a container of water, like a bunch of flowers, covered with damp kitchen towel, they start to die as soon as they are cut. This will keep them fresher for longer
Asparagus provides vitamins A, B2, and C. It is also a good source of potassium, iron and….calcium – surprised? Now if only I could find a way of making my children eat asparagus, all would be good in my green world. For the rest of us here’s some asparagusy stuff.
Generally speaking if your asparagus is thinner than your small finger, just snap off the end and you are done. To prepare asparagus professionally if it is any thicker than this, you will need to peel it. – obviously I look for the thin stuff. If you want to peel it see how to at the bottom of the page, for a stand alone serve of asparagus this will give an elegant presentation.
A healthy way to eat it is include a few shoots in a salad. Here are a couple that are very popular at work and I usually just snap the ends off and give the ends a quick once over with my vegetable peeler.
Super simple asparagus, feta and rocket salad
- 6 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lbs fresh asparagus (preferably medium thickness), tough ends trimmed, remaining diced into 2-inch pieces
- 1 (10.5 oz) pkt cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 cups chopped walnuts , toasted – NB a shake of salt and sugar when they are still hot works well
- feta cheese , crumbled (scant 1 cup)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile prepare vinaigrette – add vinegar to a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat and allow to boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Pour into a jar or bowl, add olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, garlic and whisk to blend while seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Add asparagus to boiling water and allow to boil until tender crisp, about 4 – 5 minutes. Meanwhile fill a medium mixing bowl with ice and cold water. Drain and immediately transfer asparagus to ice water, let rest about 10 seconds then drain asparagus well. Transfer to a bowl with tomatoes and walnuts. Drizzle vinaigrette over top and toss lightly. Sprinkle over half of the feta then plate and top with remaining feta (just so the feta doesn’t brown from tossing with all the dressing).
Another simple asparagus salad with fresh strawberries
- 2 cups fresh asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
- 2 punnets fresh strawberries, quartered
- 1 large spring onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup pea shoots/snow peas
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
- Cup or thereabouts of feta, crumbled
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey – warmed
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of water mixed with a teaspoon of salt to a boil over medium heat. Set aside a bowl of iced water. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Drain the asparagus and immediately add it to the ice water.
- In a large bowl combine asparagus, spinach, strawberries, onion, pea shoots, almonds and goat cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad and toss lightly to coat. As I said SIMPLE.
Asparagus makes your pee smell, fact, it contains the same compound found in garlic and onions. FUN FACT, only about one-quarter of the population appears to have the special gene that allows them to smell those compounds. So the issue isn’t whether or not your pee is smelly; it’s whether you’re able to smell it. My children use this as evidence that asparagus is evil and should never be eaten as all three of us have the gene!
Cooking the perfect asparagus
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut of the random single leaves that sit below the main tip, then score a line about 4cm below the tip, around the circumference of the stalk . Snap off the tough bottom of the stalk by bending it. Fresh asparagus will snap at the right place, trust the vegetable Gods. Cut this end on an angle or leave it, like I do. Using a vegetable peeler lightly peel the asparagus from the bottom to that line you have just made, revealing the beautiful light green beneath. You are going for uniform result here.
Now to cook. Bring a large – large enough to keep the water boiling when the asparagus goes in – pot of salted water to the boil and fill a large bowl with cold water and ice and stick a strainer on the bench. Tie your asparagus into bundles, no more than 8, with cooking string, not the elastic bands they are sold in!! The tie needs to be secure but leaving enough space so even cooking is achievable, so not tight.
Lower the asparagus into the boiling water and allow to gently boil for 2 – 5 mins depending on the thickness and your preference. Drain using the sieve and then plunge into the cold water. Cut the string and move everything with your hand. Once the asparagus is cooled take out and drain on kitchen towel.