Kitchen Tips

How To Pick The Very Best Asparagus At The Store—And What To Do With It In The Kitchen

Here are six tips for choosing, prepping and cooking with asparagus.

Bunch of asparagus

Photo, Erik Putz.

Fresh local asparagus has always felt like nature’s spring gift. Marking the change of season, it’s the first vegetable to pop up after a long, cold winter. And, it’s loaded with nutrients, minerals and antioxidants—to literally put spring in our step!

Here are some tips for selecting, storing and prepping your asparagus—as well as some recipes to help you enjoy this spring treasure. (Get more asparagus recipes here.)

How to choose asparagus

Asparagus tips should be tight

Spears with tips that have begun to splay indicate the asparagus was picked late, and will likely be woody.

Although we tend to look for green asparagus, different varieties have slightly different colours (even white!). Often present is a slight purple tone, which is simply a difference in variety and fine to eat. Regardless of the colour, what you should look for is vibrancy. A dullness means the asparagus has passed its best.

Try this recipe:
White asparagus with easy hollandaise

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Asparagus stalks should be firm

Spears that feel rubbery when bent are not at their prime. The asparagus we eat during the winter is imported and generally uniform in appearance — tall and slender. But when it comes to local asparagus—such as you would find at your farmers’ market, they will vary in size. In this case, the shorter, wider asparagus will be just as tender and sweet as the tall spears.

Try this recipe:
Baby greens with chicken and spring vegetables

How to prepare asparagus

Trim the ends

Snapping the ends results in too much waste. Place your knife on the bottom of the spear, you can feel where the spear turns from firm to tender. Local asparagus will need very little trimming.

Don’t peel the ends

Peeling is reserved for aesthetics and for asparagus that has passed its prime and turned woody.

Try this recipe:
Rolled trout with asparagus and tarragon cream

How to wash asparagus

Asparagus is simply not as sandy or dirty as some believe. After trimming off the ends (the sandiest part) often a rinse will do. Otherwise, put a small amount of water in the base of your sink and swish the spears around to remove any dirt from the crevices. Dry thoroughly.

Try this recipe:
Bistro-style spring salad with asparagus

How to store asparagus

Avoid washing or trimming asparagus until you are ready to use it. Store in the fridge, standing upright in a very small amount of water, or cover the ends of your bunch with a wet paper towel, place it in an open plastic storage bag and keep in your crisper until ready to use.

Originally published April 2014. Updated May 2021.

Watch: How to make asparagus fries

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