5 Tips for Choosing and Using Fresh Asparagus

Asparagus is in season in the early spring in the Ohio valley area. If you are lucky enough to live near a farmer’s market—local producers offer great quality produce. If you are not into the farmer’s market scene, you can still snag quality asparagus at your local supermarket. (Many of them also seek out local produce to cut costs!) What should you know about choosing the best asparagus? There are a few tips for selecting and using asparagus that you should remember.
Fresh asparagus tips
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Smaller is better when selecting asparagus. Forget the typical, American “biggie sizes” when you are choosing fresh asparagus. Select a bunch with the smallest diameter asparagus spears. These will be most tender and most flavorful selections.  Larger stalks are tough, stringy and many times almost inedible.

Kids like asparagus tips.  Really--kids will eat asparagus.  Yes—just as most little ones prefer broccoli florets over the “stem”—they seem to like the texture of the asparagus “flower” or tip as well. You can give in and eat the “stem leftovers” which are more “adult palate” ready—or you can buy extra so that Mom and Dad get some of the tasty asparagus tips as well! But—the odds are good that even the pickiest of picky eaters will give asparagus tips a try (in spite of their green-veggie coloring!) and may even admit that they like them.  Maybe.

Asparagus is more versatile than many realize. Did you know that you can eat asparagus raw as crudités? How about asparagus as an omelet ingredient? When fresh asparagus is in season locally, you can honestly add it to just about any meal. It is great with eggs in omelets or a frittata like this crab and asparagus frittata—and makes a tasty side dish with mushrooms or goes well in virtually any main dish meat or pasta dish.

Pinnable image for choosing and using fresh asparagus

Asparagus is a super easy grilled side dish. There is no reason for Mom to slave in the hot kitchen working on side dishes while Dad mans the outdoor grill cooled by the spring breeze. Asparagus cooks wonderfully on the grill in a variety of recipes!

Be sure to remove the “woody” stalk. I prefer to bend EACH piece to its breaking point. Where an asparagus breaks is where it is considered “woody” and brittle (or yucky tasting beyond the “break”). Some break a piece and then cut off the remaining bunch to an equal length. If your bunch is composed of “older” asparagus mixed with young tender stalks, you will lose a lot of tasty vegetable if you are gauging the length from an “old” piece. Likewise, if you begin with a tender stalk, you may discover some tough, stringy older pieces in your dish if you cut the remaining bunch from the younger one’s “breaking point”. It takes a little longer to break each piece—but the end result is often worth it—especially with store bought bunches! Grocers tend to mix in older stalks in with a younger bunch to get rid of the “less than desirable” pieces.

My grandma LOVED asparagus--but was never able to grow it well in her garden and that's from where most of her fresh veggies came. I'll admit, I'm not a green veggie fan--and asparagus is right up there with the artichoke in ugly in my book--but, try it.  You just may love it as much as I do.

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