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Kitchen Basics: Perfect Asparagus

By Susan Pachikara, February 20, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Susan Pachikara


For home cooks, the return of asparagus marks a much-anticipated turning point in the kitchen. Its delicate grassy flavor affirms the promise of spring and the eventual appearance of summer’s bounty. Thin or thick, purple or green, asparagus offers a crunchy texture that spruces up veggie platters and salads, and pairs beautifully with pasta. 

How to Select & Store Asparagus

Asparagus has a very short shelf life, so it’s important to select fresh stalks and use them as quickly as possible. Choose spears that are smooth and taut and have tightly interwoven tips. If the tips are open, it’s a sure sign that the asparagus is past its prime.


To store asparagus, fill the bottom of a glass with water, place the ends in the water (like a bouquet), and refrigerate for no more than five days. Alternatively, cover the ends in a moist paper towel and place it in a plastic bag before storing it in the refrigerator.

How to Prepare Asparagus

Although its tops are tender, asparagus has tough, woody ends, which much be peeled or removed. 

To peel: Wash and dry the asparagus. Cut off the bottom 1/4-inch of the stalks. Using a vegetable peeler, gently remove the tough green skin covering the lower quarter to third of each stalk.


To break off ends: Wash and dry the asparagus. Hold the top of a stalk in one hand and pinch the body of the stalk one-third of the way from the bottom. Pull both hands toward each other. The stalk will snap just where the tough section begins. Discard the tough ends.


How to Blanch Asparagus 

Although asparagus can be grilled, stir-fried, roasted, or steamed, I prefer to blanch it this time of year. Blanching involves boiling (or steaming) it briefly and then cooling it in ice water. Blanching helps to subdue its raw edge and safeguards its crisp texture. 

Fill a large bowl with ice and water to create an ice bath. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Carefully lower the asparagus into the water and cook until it is just tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to the ice bath with a pair of tongs. After 2 to 3 minutes, drain the asparagus in a colander.


Top the asparagus with a crumbled soft- or hard-boiled egg for added flavor.


I’d love to see your tips for prepping and cooking asparagus! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.

Visit our spring gatherings site for more expert tips on what to cook and how to cook it, being the host- or host-ess with the most-est and fun ideas for cooking with kids.

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Category: Food & Recipes




costas says ...
blanch in the same way ,remove from water salt and pepper to taste sprinkle with chopped garlic and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or lemon.
02/20/2013 1:24:02 PM CST
beth says ...
Approx how long do you cook it, until tender , I know, but approx 3 min. 10 min? Time of cooking might help
02/22/2013 9:36:39 AM CST
Mailyn Boudreau says ...
Sounds good.
02/22/2013 9:41:28 AM CST
patricia says ...
I save the ends I snapped off for later use in my vegetable soup.
02/22/2013 9:42:36 AM CST
Patricia says ...
Excellent Love asparagus! I like it also with garlic.
02/22/2013 9:43:24 AM CST
Eddie Guitarza says ...
Prep the spears. Spread out on a oven safe pan drizzle w/olive oil, salt, and pepper cover bake @ 300 for 15 - 20 minutes munch
02/22/2013 9:57:26 AM CST
Dot King says ...
Enjoyed this information
02/22/2013 11:12:29 AM CST
Miss Havisham says ...
As an option the article suggests, blanch it by steaming it instead of boiling. Even blanching removes more nutrients than steaming. I'm really taken by the Hoisin Green Bean dish at my corner Chinese restaurant, so I found a recipe for that and swapped the green beans for asparagus. Just as delicious!
02/22/2013 11:46:34 AM CST
Joycelyn Thomas-Washington says ...
Thank you, I never knew what to do with fresh asparagus. I love it.
02/22/2013 2:45:32 PM CST
Dawn says ...
After blanching I like to sprinkle with olive oil, Panko breadcrumbs, dried basil & oregano & garlic powder and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Yum
02/24/2013 2:27:36 PM CST
Karen Bekker says ...
Individual hors d'oeuvre - bake asparagus spears spiral wrapped with a ribbon of puff pastry.
02/25/2013 3:30:19 PM CST
Great Stone Face says ...
I always roast asparagus. Snap off the ends -- save for vegetable broth. Toss the tender part with a little olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast on a sheet pan at 400-450 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle chopped herbs, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, or pomegranate molasses over them. Serve hot or room temperature. You can dress them up by roasting red bell pepper rings with them; or garnishing them with roasted or broiled lemon slices or halves.
02/25/2013 4:21:02 PM CST
Jennifer says ...
I didn't even know what blanching was until last week. I snap the ends off my asparagus, put them in a bowl with some oil, and a TB-spoon of salt. Mix and then toss into a greased up pan. I bake it at 400 degrees for 35 min. :)
02/25/2013 5:14:11 PM CST
I appreciated the cooking tips and I've learned a lot. I'm a Filipino and came here in USA last 2008 as immigrant. I would like to prepared western food for my owned, thanks a lot. How to prepare the antchoke? MAHALO!
02/28/2013 11:48:32 AM CST
FoodieFood says ...
This is awesome...I was just thinking of incorporating some different veggies into my diet this morning, and asparagus was the first to come to mind!! I think it's time for a change from the usual broccoli and carrots almost every night...
03/03/2013 5:10:42 PM CST
Ellen says ...
Best way I've ever made them: Put in a brown paper bag with some sea salt. Roll up bag and drizzle outside of bag with olive oil. Bake in a pan (bag and all) at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Delicious!
03/03/2013 5:54:30 PM CST
moon says ...
What about white asparagus? Would the cooking, storing and cutting advice would be the same? Thanks!
03/13/2013 6:21:39 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MOON - White and green asparagus are totally interchangeable for recipes. The white asparagus is said to be a bit more mild in flavor and can be more tender so check it a little before the time your recipe calls for.
03/15/2013 3:48:22 PM CDT
Sara Jones says ...
I like to top the asparagus with olive oil, cherry tomatoes (cut in half). and feta, and bake for 40 minutes at 375. It looks super fancy and tastes delicious!
03/16/2013 3:25:43 PM CDT
k says ...
Wrapped in proucito and havarti and grilled... Steamed then drizzled with balsamic, sprinkled witth parmasan
03/16/2013 6:04:57 PM CDT
Pam says ...
Thanks for the storage tips, very timely since I just purchased a bunch today!
03/17/2013 5:05:16 AM CDT
Teri says ...
Thanks for the great tip. I'll be more apt to buy asparagus now I know what to look for, how to properly clean them, and the best methods for cooking them.
03/18/2013 9:43:09 AM CDT
Scott says ...
Olive oil, kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and thyme baked at 375 until desired tenderness.
03/18/2013 9:58:49 PM CDT
Kathy Beach says ...
I roast them in the winter with olive oil and kosher salt. At times i will add Parmesean on top after removing from the oven. Other times i pour red wine vinegrette over them. In the summer, I grill them instead of roasting. I also wrap them in filo dough.. parmesan and bake them for An appetizer, very delicious!
03/19/2013 7:02:03 AM CDT
Kathy says ...
Chose fatter spears. Wash, dry, break off tough ends where they naturally break. Coat with olive oil and seasoning of your choice. Grill until you have grill marks on all sides and stalks are tender. Enjoy!
03/23/2013 9:47:40 PM CDT