We get asparagus for as little as two months of the year, 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. You can cook it in a number of ways – try roasting asparagus to serve in a salad or griddling as a side for a roast chicken dinner.
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 vegetables (particularly green veg), as it helps them 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 the 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 its distinct texture and vibrancy.
- Coat the asparagus spears in a little olive oil.
- Put your griddle pan over a high heat. When it’s 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.
Roasting asparagus is one of the easiest ways to cook this vegetable. Simply drizzle with olive oil and pop in the oven.
- Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
- Snap any woody tips off the asparagus where they naturally break apart. Put on a roasting tray, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast for 12 mins until they are tender.
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 discarding it.
- Peel off long ribbons until you get to the middle, then 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 the thicker spears take a little longer to soften. Try this recipe to make the most of their rich, nutty flavour.
Try more awesome asparagus recipes…
Have you tried any of our asparagus recipes? Leave a comment below…