It’s asparagus season! Many folks do not realize how lovely these green spears taste when they are super fresh. See how to best cook this treat—from roasting to grilling to lightly steaming. Then eat on its own or pair with eggs, fish, chicken, and more.
How to Choose Asparagus
Whether you’re buying at the market or harvesting in the garden, choose asparagus that is uniform in size so it cooks evenly.
In the garden, asparagus can be picked in the third year after planting. In the cool morning for 4 weeks, gather spears that are 6 to 9 inches long and at least ⅜-inch thick and have tightly closed tips. Snap the stalks off at the base; don’t use a knife, or you may injure the crown. In ensuing years, extend the picking time to 6 to 8 weeks.
Use immediately for best flavor. There are a couple ways to store:
For a few days, just put in a jar of water, stalk side down. Loosely cover jar with plastic and place in refrigerator.
Or, to store for a week or two, wash asparagus spears in cold water and place a moist paper towel over their cut ends. Place the spears in a plastic bag and store in vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. Watch our video on how to clean, trim, and store asparagus.
When you’re ready to use the asparagus, rinse the spears and snap off the ends (they’ll snap in their natural place).
Roasting asparagus with just a little olive oil is our favorite way to cook asparagus to bring out the vegetable’s natural sweetness. Here’s our recipe from The Old Farmer’s Garden-Fresh Cookbook (page 102).
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the asparagus in a single layer on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes, or until tender (time will depend on the thickness of the stalks).
If you’re grilling asparagus, avoid the extra-thin stalks; they’ll overcook almost immediately. Plus, they’ll fall through the grill!
Roll spears in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for 5 to 10 minutes, turning every few minutes until tender. As all stalks are different diameters, test the thickest part of the stalk with a knife; it’s done when you can easily pierce the flesh.
Cooking Asparagus on a Stove Top
Steaming: To properly steam delicate asparagus on the stove, you really need a steamer basket. Then fill a big pot with an inch of water, add the steamer basket in the pot, and bring the water to a boil. Place asparagus in the basket, cover, and steam for 3 minutes or until you can pierce the thick part of the stalk with a knife.
Sauté or Stir-fry: To sauté, heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add asparagus stalks and a pinch of salt. Toss and cook for five minutes until tender and bright green. To stir-fry, heat oil in a wok until very, very hot. Slice stalks into 1-inch pieces and add to wok with a pinch of salt. Cook and toss a few minutes until tender but still crisp.
Eating Asparagus Cold
To prepare asparagus to enjoy cold in a salad, with a dip, or to be used in a dish (such as a frittata or shrimp risotto), just blanch for 3 minutes. To blanch: Add water to a big pot (enough to cover stalks) with a pinch of salt. Bring water to a boil. Drop in the spears and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes (depending on stalk size) and still bright green. Then plunge stalks into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
Here are five fun ways to enjoy this spring green: