Fresh asparagus is sweeter and more tender, and the quality quickly degrades after harvest. It’s worth seeking them out at a farmers’ market during their short season.
When is asparagus in season?
Asparagus has a relatively short season, from March to June. They are best right after being harvested, when it is sweeter and crisper. As it stores, the sugars decline and the spears turn fibrous and stringy.
At the farmers market, you’ll find spears that were harvested that morning, since most spears that aren’t going to be sold in 24 hours are sent directly to a wholesalers who keep them in climate-controlled storage.
Should I buy organic?
Organic is always a good choice, however, it isn’t necessary for asparagus. Tests for pesticide show that conventionally grown asparagus has very little pesticide per serving, so low that it’s almost indistinguishable from organic asparagus.
How to select:
Look for asparagus with tightly closed buds with stalks that are not woody or fibrous looking at the ends. Also, size has nothing to do with their quality, as confirmed by multiple sources. Serious Eats has some good advice on choosing thinner stalks for boiling, snacking or sauteing, and thicker ones for roasting or grilling. The larger stalks have more water content and can stand up to those high heat cooking methods. Asparagus loses flavor after it is harvests, so they are best eaten very fresh, and definitely worth a trip to the farmers’ market.
How to store:
Store asparagus by cutting about 1/2 inch off the bottom and standing them up in a glass with a small amount of water. Some suggest to then cover it with a plastic bag to keep in the moisture. An alternative method is to wrap the bottoms in a damp paper towel and store in an open plastic bag in the crisper drawer.
How long will it last?
Best eaten right away as flavor deteriorates over time, but they can last up to 4 days when properly stored.
Don’t snap asparagus spears
If you’ve heard the advice to find where the woodiness of the stalk ends, just bend it with both hands and it will snap off in the right place… that turns out to not be true. (Hey, don’t feel bad, I’ve snapped plenty of asparagus in my days!) Oregon Live has a fun article about it, encouraging you to not snap those spears and waste food.
Now what should I make?
That’s a good question! I scour the internet to find recipes that use fresh, seasonal ingredients, often with a fun twist. Follow Ask The Food Geek on Pinterest or Facebook to get access to the recipes I find every day.
Seasonal asparagus recipes
Each recipe below only uses ingredients that are in season at the same time as asparagus, or ingredients that have a year-round season. Since their season overlaps with the beginning or end of other fruits and vegetables, the recipes are grouped into early season, late season, or anytime they are available.
…For anytime asparagus is in season
Asparagus and mushroom pasta – recipe by Salt & Lavender
Caesar salad with grilled asparagus and quail eggs – recipe by Cooking LSL
Garlic Parmesan roasted asparagus by Belle of the Kitchen
Charred asparagus cream pasta with blackened lemon chicken by Half Baked Harvest
Asparagus tart – recipe by The Petite Cook
Asparagus and pea soup – recipe by Harriet Emily
Shaved asparagus, radish and quinoa salad with lemon-dijon poppy seed dressing – recipe by Vanilla And Bean
While radishes can be harvested year round in California (and ship well across the country), spring brings us wonderful watermelon radishes (slightly more mild than regular radishes with striking hot-pink flesh).
…For the very end of the season (around June)
Asparagus shakshuka – by Recipes from a Pantry
Bell peppers come into season in early summer, right around when asparagus season is ending. So this is a perfect use for the very last asparagus you can find.