Learn how to prepare and cook asparagus in a range of tasty dishes. The delicate spears of this seasonal vegetable can be blanched, griddled or served raw.
For as little as two months of the year we get asparagus, so it’s well worth making the most of it when it appears, which is somewhere from around the end of April into June.
The earliest shoots are called ‘sprue’. They’re thinner and usually tender all the way through. The later and thicker shoots can have very woody ends that need to be removed. Simply bend each stalk with both hands, gently, until it snaps – the break will happen where the woody part meets the tender. Sometimes what needs to be discarded can be quite substantial, but you can use these ends to make a stock for soups and stews.
Get the best from your asparagus by cooking it as soon after it’s picked as you can.
Watch our video on how to prepare and cook asparagus:
Top ways to cook asparagus
Blanch & refresh
A method we’ve gleaned from restaurant cooking is called blanch and refresh. This is actually useful for lots of (particularly green) vegetables as it helps to retain their bright colour and flavour after cooking.
Fill a bowl with water and ice cubes and set aside. Plunge your asparagus spears into a pan of boiling water. Cook for 1-2 mins or until tender. Remove the asparagus with tongs or a slotted spoon and place directly in a bowl of ice water. Store in the fridge until needed then simply drain and reheat in a pan with a little butter when you want to serve.
Another way to cook asparagus is to char it, either on a griddle pan, or on a barbecue – if you dare brave the weather.
Slightly scorching the asparagus brings out a nutty flavour while keeping that distinct texture and vibrancy. Coat the asparagus spears in a little olive oil. Put your griddle pan over a high heat and when heated through, add the asparagus spears and season with salt and black pepper. Cook for 1-2 mins, turning occasionally until tender. Check if the asparagus is done by lifting a spear out of the griddle pan with a pair of tongs. If it bends slightly, it’s ready.
Peel raw ribbons
Asparagus can be eaten raw, too, as part of a salad. It works very well sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Start by removing the tougher outer skin and discard it. Then, keep peeling off long ribbons until you get to the middle, turn over and repeat on the other side.
Our best asparagus recipes:
Asparagus fries with baconnaise
An indulgent celebration of asparagus, the coating of crisp breadcrumbs adds texture without distracting from the flavour and pairs wonderfully with the rich bacon mayo.
Asparagus pancakes & smoked salmon
Frame your asparagus spears in these golden pancakes for a picture-perfect brunch dish.
Asparagus, avocado & quinoa tabbouleh
This stunning platter of fresh greens makes a lovely side dish for sharing and it's a great way to serve asparagus raw.
Sesame grilled asparagus rafts
Here's a simple recipe for grilling or barbecuing your asparagus. Fixing a row of spears together makes them much easier to work with.
White asparagus with Serrano ham & chive dressing
White asparagus cooks in the same way as the green variety, but thicker spears take a little longer to soften. Try this recipe to make the most of their rich, nutty flavour.
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