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Asparagus Handling and Cooking Tips

by Chef Dennis Horton - Regional Metro Chef, South Bay/ Orange County/ San Diego

Asparagus comes from the Greek root word meaning sprout. It is native to the Mediterranean and was cultivated over 2,000 years ago.  There are many different varieties to choose from like white asparagus, violet –green asparagus, pencil thin asparagus and jumbo asparagus.  In China, asparagus is candied and eaten as a special treat, but it’s actually really easy to prepare and enjoy as an anytime treat. Here are a few tips and techniques to keep in mind when preparing asparagus:

  • The key is to select straight, uniformly sized spears with closed tips.  Since asparagus is highly perishable, it is important to select bundles that are refrigerated on ice.   For that same reason, asparagus should be used within 2-3 days of purchase. 
  • The best way to store asparagus is to place it upright in a small vase or bowl with cold water.  You can also wrap the bottom end in damp paper towel. 
  • Cut and discard the bottom inch of the asparagus.  It is often very thick and fibrous and difficult to digest.
  • When using jumbo asparagus, lightly peel the outer thin skin with a vegetable peeler leaving the tip of bud of the asparagus intact.
  • Blanching is the best way to cook asparagus to keep it fresh and crisp.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.   The water should taste as salty as the sea.  This will keep your asparagus a nice bright, green color.  Wrap a piece of butcher twine around a bundle of about 9-10 asparagus.  Make sure there is a longer piece of twine hanging off the bundle.  When the water hits a rolling boil, use the string to lower the bundle into the boiling water for 30 seconds.  Then pull the asparagus out of the water by the longer piece of twine and immediately submerge in a bowl of cold, icy water.   This will stop the cooking process. 

You can put asparagus on top of your favorite salad, use it as a side dish or just eat it on its own. Enjoy! 

Dennis Horton

Dennis Horton is a metro chef for South Bay, Orange County, San Diego and Hawaii

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