Asparagus – A Gardener/Cook’s Harbinger of Spring

Asparagus is a member of the lily family. The asparagus spears we buy at the store is the shoot of the asparagus plant. The spear (shoot) grows into fern and has red berries. The above photo shows ferns, berries and spears at different stages of growth.

Selecting - Choose spears that are firm and smooth, with tips that are tight and unblemished, also the cut ends not dry. If you are cooking the spears whole, choose spears of about the same diameter, if cutting into smaller sections then it does not matter that much.

Storing - When you bring you asparagus home, trim about a ¼ inch from the root (cut) end and store using one of the following methods:
Method 1: Wrap lower half (root end) with clean damp paper towel, place in plastic bag and refrigerate.
Method 2:  Stand (cut end) in about 2 inches of cold water, cover loosely with plastic and refrigerate (I cut away the 2 corners of a plastic bag and place it over the spears and container).

Choosing fat spears versus skinny spears is a personal preference and also that of presentation. I personally prefer the fat spears. Whatever your preference, they are all delicious and say “spring is here”.

If possible, select spears  that are green from tip to root end, see photo at right. The lower root end of the spear on the left of the photo will not be as tender as the other two spears that are green the entire length.

Peeling - I prefer to use a paring knife. Starting at the root end, make a cut under the “skin”, keep peeling down towards the tip, the knife will slide off automatically when it reaches the tender part. Now the whole spear is tender and edible.

Uses
Toss with olive oil, miced garlic and salt, bake in a 400° F  oven for 10 – 25 minutes, depending on thickness of spears, or until crisp tender, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve hot or cold. This is good cooked on the grill too.
Place on steamer rack or steamer basket, steam for 3 – 8 minutes, depending on thickness of spears, or until crisp tender, drizzle with lemon or lime juice and sesame or coconut oil.

Below is a salad that is easy delicious and calls for few ingredients.

Asparagus Salad

From “My Students’ Favorite Chinese Recipes updated edition” by Norma Chang

Ingredients
1 – 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon soy sauce, regular or gluten free
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoon finely crushed Chinese rock sugar or white sugar
Combine the above in a small dish. This is the dressing. Can be done the day before. If desired, discard garlic before tossing with asparagus

1 – 1½ pounds fresh asparagus, cleaned, peeled and roll cut
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, black or white or a combination (see NOTE)

Preparations
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in asparagus. Remove pot from heat and let asparagus blanch for 1 minute.
2. Have a container of ice and water standing by. Drain asparagus and add to ice bath. Once cooled, drain well and pat dry using a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. Can be done the day before and kept refrigerated.
3. Toss cooled and dried asparagus with dressing. Marinate ½ hour before serving.
4. Arrange asparagus on serving dish, garnish with sesame seeds. Serve.

NOTE: When toasting black sesame seeds, add a few white ones, when the white ones are toasted the black ones are toasted too.

You may also like the following asparagus recipes:
Click here for Shrimp & Asparagus Stir-fry
Click here for Marinated Tofu, Asparagus & Portabella Mushroom Stir-fry

Copyright © by Norma Chang

Robin, The Gardener of Eden, is the host for Thursdays Kitchen Cupboard. Head on over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard to see what others are cooking.

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About Norma Chang

I am the author/publisher of 2 user-friendly Chinese cookbooks: "My Students' Favorite Chinese Recipes (updated edition)" and "Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking" A gardener who enjoys cooking and eating and loves to think outside the box A garden volunteer at Locust Grove Heritage Vegetable Garden Conduct hands-on cooking workshops for teenagers Conduct cultural programs for children and family Conduct healthy cooking classes for adults
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55 Responses to Asparagus – A Gardener/Cook’s Harbinger of Spring

  1. Norma, this is a great post! I love the asparagus a lot, I love it raw tender dipped in some light sauce, grilled with lemon and olive oil, in soups, with pasta. Any meal with asparagus is a treat!

  2. Kristy says:

    I had no idea asparagus was part of the lilly family. Love the helpful tips and hints about it. I learned a ton. And I have an asparagus recipe I’ve been wanting to try. (Now I have two!) :)

  3. Suzi says:

    This sounds wonderful and that dressing is perfect. I have never eaten asparagas this way. Very nice.

  4. wok with ray says:

    Hi Norma,

    I really love going to your site because of all the wisdom that you share with ordinary people like me. I wouldn’t know this information about asparagus if you didn’t post it. You also have a gentle and caring way of educating people. Wish you more success, Norma!

    ~ ray ~

  5. ChgoJohn says:

    I really do enjoy asparagus and they’re just starting to make an appearance on our store shelves. This year, I’ll give your asparagus salad a try, It sounds delicious.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello John,
      Yes, asparagus has been making appearance in our stores for a few weeks now, excellent quality and on sale. It just occurred to me that I did not post any stir-fry recipes, must make amend. Do let me know how you like my salad.

  6. kitsapfg says:

    Yum! I love asparagus. I actually took out my asparagus patch though because it was just not thriving. I may have to find another spot and see if a different location would make the difference.

  7. Joanne says:

    Norma, I loved reading all the tips on picking out and storing the asparagus, and the salad looks great too!

  8. Very excited to see asparagus in the stores. Thanks for the tips!

  9. Hi Norma!

    wow very informative post, I have never seen home grown Aspargus and I absolutly love the taste of these veggies. Thanks for therecipe idea!

  10. Thanks Norma :) I really needed some advice on how to buy and store asparagus!!! I don’t really know and they always kinda go limpy on me lol Yummy and simple recipe ~ Thanks for sharing as always!

  11. Asparagus is absolutely my favorite spring vegetable and your salad looks delightful, Norma! I’m spreading a little blogging love around today. You can check it out here: http://bitsandbreadcrumbs.com/2012/03/09/with-love-from-betsy/

  12. Perfect timing! I just picked up my first fresh asparagus of the season this morning! My favorite preparation is stems peeled and grilled. I love your posts Norma because I always learn something!!

  13. Robin says:

    Great post Norma! The asparagus salad sounds wonderful! I’m going to have to give it a try.

  14. Pat says:

    Hi Norma!

    I made the asparagus salad along with roast chicken and rice for tonight’s dinner. I did not have asian sesame oil so I substituted canola oil. Even with the change it was delicious!!
    The guys want to know when I will make it again. Even you know who said it was good!
    Thanks for the new recipe!

    Pat

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Pat,
      Wow, that was a delicious dinner. Glad your family liked the asparagus salad, good substitute. Actually you could use olive oil or leave out the oil and it would still be good.

  15. Maureen says:

    I built a huge veggie garden at our old house and my asparagus was absolutely wonderful. Of course I overdid it and had enough for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. I miss it. Now I have to buy it but it’s still good!

  16. Phyllis Smith says:

    Hi Norma, As usual I have enjoyed reading your blogs and this one on asparagus was no exception. I will definitely try this as we all love asparagus and your salad sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing. Phyllis

  17. Sandra says:

    The salad looks simple and delicious! I’m anxious to try it!

  18. Mike says:

    In a couple months the wild asparagus that grows in my part of the country will be up and we will be out foraging for it…something I always look forward too. Your salad sounds divine and I will have to try it with some of this seasons crop.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Mike,
      Wild asparagus, how delightful. I never had wild asparagus, how is the flavor and texture compared to cultivated asparagus? Are they fat or skinny?

  19. Sophie says:

    I love your green asparagus post a lot! :) I prefer white asparagus because it is what Belgium is famous for! I think they have a more sweeter flavour!

    Your salad sounds terrific too! ;) Have a great weekend!

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Sophie,
      Yes, I understand white asparagus has a sweeter flavor. Green is what we have, occassionally the white ones make an appearance in our food market, I should keep my eye open for them. A great weekend to you too.

  20. Hi Norma,

    Growing up near to the very best Asparagus growers-around Evesham- in the UK we certainly learnt to appreciate very, very, good home grown asparagus or ‘grass’ as it is known locally. The local farmers would leave bunches in various grades/thicknesses in water by the farm gate and you would simply pick what you wanted and leave your money in the Honesty Box. The quality and freshness was amazing and something I didn’t appreciate until I moved way. In the season, the local pubs and restaurants would have whole menus devoted to asparagus and I have to say it remains one of my absolutely favourite vegetables. Many thanks Norma for giving me a new recipe to try out!

  21. hotlyspiced says:

    I didn’t know that asparagus spears grew with red berries. Those berries look very pretty. I love the look of your salad – how fresh and vibrant does it look!

  22. I tried growing asparagus when we first moved into this house, without much success (largely due to the lack of sunlight). It’s definitely coming up to asparagus season in Toronto, and I can hardly wait to have it as a fresh salad!

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Eva,
      I gave up on my asparagus patch, was not doing well at all. What you see in the photo came from Locust Grove Heritage Vegetable garden where I am a volunteer.

  23. Hi Norma, what a wonderful blog you have! Thanks for the photos of the asparagus – we have a small bed of them growing. It’s now in its second year, and we’ve only got ferns, no berries or true shoots yet. I believe we’re supposed to cut them right down to the ground in winter – do you know if that’s true? Thanks.. :)

  24. Charles says:

    Hi Norma – I love the look of your asparagus salad. To be honest, I only ever ate it one way – the usual steamed/boiled way. I haven’t been too adventurous with it before. I must try it next time. Nice to read about your asparagus – I’ll be going to the garden centre tomorrow to get some balcony plants :)

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Charles,
      I hope you will try the salad. Just posted an asparagus stir-fry recipe that you might also like. What are you planting this year?

      • Charles says:

        Hi Norma – we bought some beautiful flowers – I’m terrible with plant names though and can’t for the life of me remember what they are right now… I think some of them were hydrangeas… or maybe not… I’ll be posting some photos soon though so you can see for yourself. We weren’t able to find any veggie seedlings yet except tomato and strawberry so will go another day for those. In the meantime I’ll try to grow some red-onion scallion type things from seed… see how that turns out :D

      • Norma Chang says:

        Hello Charles,
        I think it is still too early to find veggie seedlings at the nursery.
        You will enjoy growing things from seeds. Watching them germinate and putting out true leaves is quite a transformation. Magical!
        I am looking forward to your flower’s photos

  25. Pingback: Healthy Asparagus and Shrimp Stir-fry |

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