Are you lucky enough to have scored some fresh asparagus spears this spring? While you can now get asparagus almost year-round at the grocery store, asparagus fresh from a local garden is an entirely different culinary experience! Whether you grow your own, have a generous friend with an asparagus patch, or, like me, keep a watchful eye out at the local markets for its arrival, you’ll want to take care when storing asparagus to make it last as long — and flavorfully — as possible.
Choose the best stalks
You can tell a lot by looking. If you can, choose bright green asparagus, with purplish tips and white at the bottom. (If you’re buying white asparagus or purple asparagus — good find! — just make sure the color looks bright, not dull.) Pick stems that are about the same size, so they cook uniformly. (Thick stems will take longer to cook than thin stems.) And test the stalks to see if they stand at attention rather than flop over. The tops should be tightly closed and firm.
Go with the best storage option
Once it’s in your kitchen, you can wrap the ends of the asparagus stalks in a clean, damp, towel (or paper towel), pop it in a produce bag or plastic bag, and store it in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. But there’s a better option.
The main problem with storing asparagus is that it starts to dry out. Not the tops — those get wet and slimy when they’re old. I’m talking about those bottoms. Have you ever noticed how the ends can get shriveled and/or brown and woody? The trick is to keep those ends moist.
So, instead of popping the spears in the refrigerator drawer, take a minute to cut about half an inch off the flat ends and stand them in a couple of inches of water in a jar. (This reminds me of prepping flowers for a vase!) Leave the rubber band on, if there is one, or tie them with a string so that they don’t flop all over the place.
To protect them from other aromas in the refrigerator and help them stay fresh, cover them loosely with a produce bag or plastic bag. Then stand the jar in the refrigerator. Change the water every day or two. Asparagus spears should keep for five to seven days this way. (Although, the sooner you eat them the better they’ll taste!)
To freeze asparagus
• Choose fresh stalks (don’t freeze asparagus right before it’s time to throw it away).
• Chop about an inch or so off the bottom ends (whatever it takes to get rid of the woody parts).
• Cut the stalks into pieces about two inches long.
• Blanch. Blanching veggies is easy. Just submerge the stalk pieces in boiling water for about 30 seconds (for medium-size stalks). Remove from heat, drain, and quickly place in ice water to stop the cooking process. Swish them around to cool them quickly, then remove from the ice water and pat dry.
• Flash freeze. Sounds like a dance, right? It’s another easy process. Spread the blanched pieces on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Then place the sheet in the freezer for about an hour. Flash freezing keeps the spears from freezing together into one mass. (It works well for berries that you want to freeze whole, too!)
• Place the asparagus pieces in a freezer container or freezer bag. Pack tightly and cover. Label, date, and pop in the freezer.
If you started with good asparagus and followed these freezing steps, it should last 10 to 12 months in the freezer. Maybe until next spring’s batch arrives!
Did you know an asparagus bed can produce for over 20 years? If you love asparagus and have a sunny spot for a planting bed, you might consider growing this perennial yourself. Here are some good directions for growing your own asparagus.
Do you grow asparagus? How do you like to eat it? (My fave is simply roasted with olive oil and lemon pepper.)
You might also like: Salad greens — How to make them last and Spud Storage — How to store potatoes so they don’t go bad.