Today, I want to discuss the often misunderstood and disliked asparagus. First of all, I am not a fan of asparagus. I don’t like the taste of asparagus at all and never have. You don’t have to worry about me feeding you a line of bull about how wonderful asparagus tastes. It won’t happen. Ever. I don’t eat asparagus!!! So, what does asparagus taste like?
With that said, I do know how to cook asparagus well and have family and friends who love them. So, prior to writing this article, I talked extensively to my asparagus-loving friends as well as the haters, asking them how asparagus tastes to them. I also asked the asparagus lovers if they preferred raw asparagus or cooked asparagus taste. And, I asked them their favorite way of cooking asparagus.
I talked to them about the taste of fresh asparagus versus canned asparagus. I also asked if they could tell the difference between green asparagus, purple asparagus, and white asparagus.
My goal with this article is to describe asparagus flavor and answer the question, “What does asparagus taste like?” I will also explain how to buy, store, and prepare asparagus cost-effectively if you decide to try it.
In addition to discussing asparagus’s taste, I’ll also share with you a few ways of cooking it, including how to sautee, grill, and roast it.
I’ll also cover some basic asparagus information, such as what asparagus really is, where it is grown, how to harvest it, what asparagus looks like, why asparagus makes your urine smell, and more!
Let’s get started, shall we?
What Is Asparagus?
Asparagus is a perennial garden vegetable with a distinct flavor. It is regarded as a nutritious vegetable with many health benefits, including supposedly improving blood pressure and digestive health.
It is presently classified in its own vegetable family but used to be part of the lily family.
There are over 300 varieties of asparagus but not all are safe to consume.
Some are cultivated for eating, like the garden asparagus, but several species are grown as ornamental plants.
Green asparagus is the most common edible variety, but you can also find white asparagus and purple asparagus in some grocery stores and at many local farmer’s markets.
What Does Asparagus Taste Like?
The taste of asparagus is one of the hardest vegetables to describe, but I’ll give it a shot.
The taste of asparagus is best described as a distinct, strong, assertive taste with somewhat bitter undertones. Asparagus has an earthy grass flavor similar to other green veggies like broccoli. They also have slight sulfurous notes and are also extremely fibrous and stringy. However, young asparagus can have a milder taste while older asparagus can get a bit sour tasting.
Many people say asparagus tastes like broccoli, green beans, or artichokes. It is my humble opinion that asparagus does not taste much like green beans. I love green beans and only eat broccoli prepared in very specific dishes. To me, asparagus tastes a lot more like broccoli than green beans. I think broccoli and asparagus have a grassy taste to them, which I consider an acquired taste.
Taste Difference Between Green Asparagus vs. White Asparagus vs. Purple Asparagus
Purple asparagus is reported to have a slightly sweeter, somewhat more earthy, nutty type flavor than green asparagus.
On the other hand, white asparagus is said to have a milder, more delicate flavor than green asparagus but is a bit more bitter.
Do Asparagus Make Your Urine Smell?
Yes, asparagus can make your urine smell. But don’t worry, it won’t last! In most people, your urine will return to normal, but it can sometimes take 12 hours or more.
Asparagus contains an ingredient called mercaptan that causes a distinct odor in your urine.
Where Is Asparagus Grown?
Asparagus originated in eastern Mediterranean countries and is today cultivated in many parts of the world. The top producers of asparagus include China, Peru, Mexico, Germany, and Thailand.
When Is Asparagus Available?
Fresh asparagus stalks are available year-round internationally, but spring is the best time for this versatile vegetable. In the U.S., asparagus is harvested from February to June, along with many other vegetables.
If you can’t find fresh asparagus in the stores, you can also find canned asparagus, but according to my asparagus-loving friends, fresh is definitely better.
How Is Asparagus Harvested?
Asparagus spears are best harvested in the mornings or evenings in the early spring when the stalks reach 6″ to 9″ tall.
The best way to harvest asparagus is by snapping the spear at the soil level or cutting the asparagus with a knife. Just be sure you do not cut below ground level because you could damage future growth
What Does Asparagus Look Like?
The primary color of asparagus sold in the U.S. is green.
But, asparagus can also be white or purple.
Asparagus is usually sold in pencil-sized bundled stalks, generally 6″ to 8″ tall, with a petal-shaped head called a bud. Sometimes, asparagus sprues can be found in stores.
What Are Asparagus Sprues?
When growing asparagus, they need to be “thinned out”. The young, very pliable asparagus stalks are called sprues and are a favorite among asparagus lovers.
What Is The Texture Of Asparagus?
The texture of cooked asparagus depends on how it is prepared. Cooked asparagus can be crispy and crunchy or tender. For example, if you want your asparagus texture more on the tender side, you’d probably want to cook asparagus rather than try marinated raw asparagus.
Where Can I Buy Asparagus?
You can buy fresh asparagus year-round in most grocery stores, but it is most abundant and freshest in the springtime.
Asparagus can be found in local farmers’ markets when in season during the early spring.
How Do I Select And Buy Asparagus?
You should always choose firm, crisp stalks that are round and not twisted. Look for ones with moist and plump ends. Avoid the ones that look dry and woody.
How Do I Store Asparagus?
You can store fresh asparagus at or below 40°F for 7 to 10 days.
TIP: To ensure your asparagus is stored at the proper temperature, invest in an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer.
Wrap the spears in a moist cloth, place them in perforated plastic bags like these, and store them in the vegetable crisper section of your fridge.
You could also place spears in a mason jar of water and place a plastic storage bag loosely over the jar.
Because you have no idea how fresh store-bought asparagus is, plan on using it within 2 days of purchasing to ensure it doesn’t go bad.
How Do I Prep Asparagus For Eating?
Whole Stems or Stalks
When preparing asparagus stems for eating, you need to wash, trim, and peel each stalk immediately before cooking.
First, carefully wash each stalk. Then, remove the bottom fibrous, woody part of the stalk. You can do this with a knife or snap it off. Many in the culinary world believe holding one end of the asparagus in each hand, and bending it until it breaks is the best way to ensure all of the woody parts of the stalks are discarded.
Then, using a vegetable peeler, peel the outside of the asparagus stalks about halfway up. This will remove the tougher outer layers of the asparagus resulting in a more tender cooked asparagus.
At this point, you’re ready to cook!
Trimmed Prepared Asparagus Spears
If you purchase trimmed asparagus tips (ones where the woody stem has been discarded), you just need to wash each trimmed spear, and you’re ready to cook!
Can I Freeze Asparagus?
Yes, you can freeze asparagus. To freeze, blanch them for 3 to 5 minutes in boiling water. Immediately after blanching, dunk them in cold water. Wrap and freeze for up to several months.
How Long Do Asparagus Last?
Properly stored, fresh asparagus will last up to 10 days. Properly frozen, fresh asparagus will last up to several months.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Asparagus?
Asparagus is low in calories and packed full of nutrients, including folate and vitamins A, C, E, and K. It’s also a good source of fiber and trace minerals, including chromium.
According to the USDA’s National Nutrient, Database, a one-cup serving of asparagus contains the following nutrients:
- 27 calories
- 2.95 grams of protein
- 5 grams carbohydrates
- 2.81 grams of fiber
- 2.52 grams of sugar
- .16 grams fat
How Is Asparagus Consumed?
Asparagus can be eaten raw or cooked. Because they can be rather fibrous, many people prefer to cook asparagus rather than consume them raw.
However, according to my asparagus-loving friends, when sliced thin, marinated raw asparagus can be quite enjoyable.
My friends suggested marinating asparagus in a zesty Italian dressing or an Asian dressing if you want to try them raw.
How Is Asparagus Cooked?
Asparagus can be sauteed, steamed, grilled, or blanched. It can also be oven-roasted or cooked on the stovetop. Many people also like to broil asparagus, and some really like to stir-fry it with Asian flavors. Here are a few of the ways I prepare asparagus for my family and friends.
Asparagus can be sauteed with fat and herbs/spices. Many people prefer to use olive oil or butter along with herbs and spices.
When cooking for my friends, I’ll sautee the asparagus spears in a combination of melted butter and olive oil with whatever seasonings compliment the remainder of my dish. Most often, I’ll use garlic and Italian herbs like basil, oregano, and rosemary, along with some pink Himalayan sea salt and freshly ground tricolor peppercorns (you could also use plain black pepper). For a special treat, I’ll sprinkle them with some freshly grated parmesan cheese!!!
If we’re grilling steaks, my asparagus-loving friends really enjoy grilled asparagus. A basic recipe that pairs perfectly with steak is to toss asparagus in oil (olive or another oil is fine), balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper and grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until tender.
Another favorite of my friends is to toss asparagus in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill for two to three minutes. As soon as it comes off the grill, sprinkle with some parmesan cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, or even a bit of lemon balm.
Either way, my friends say grilled steak and asparagus are a delicious meal.
Oven Roasted Asparagus
Oven-roasted asparagus will take anywhere from 10-25 minutes, depending on how thin or thick your asparagus stalks are.
What Foods Go Well With Asparagus?
Because asparagus is similar to mushrooms in that it absorbs the flavors of things it is cooked with, it is very versatile.
This is a classic pairing for asparagus. This butter and egg yolk sauce pairs well with the underlying sulfurous notes of the asparagus.
Bacon-wrapped asparagus not only appears fancy, but my asparagus-loving friends say the bacon’s saltiness is a divine accompaniment to the grassy taste of asparagus.
A sprinkle of parmesan cheese or a parmesan cream sauce also pairs well with asparagus.
Butter makes everything better, right?
Eggs have underlying sulfurous notes just like asparagus, making them a good pairing.
Try a strawberry and shaved asparagus salad topped with almonds and feta cheese. Then dress it with a balsamic vinegarette. Add some chicken, fish, or lamb, and you’ve got a great main dish salad. My friends swear it’s a great pairing. I’m all in, minus the shaved asparagus!
Herbs like dill have an underlying grassy note similar to asparagus, making it a complimentary pairing.
Both fish and asparagus pair well with lemon juice and herbs like dill, tarragon, or garlic.
Goat cheese is another cheese that makes an excellent sauce for asparagus. Its tart, earthy taste is a good accompaniment to the asparagus’s grassy, earthy notes.
Some of my friends love to sautee asparagus with butter, bacon, and roasted almonds. They say it works well!
I was also told the salty taste of the ham pairs well with asparagus sauteed in butter. I can see it, but I won’t be trying it.
My friends also swear asparagus also goes well with rice, pasta, and just about any dish seasoned with vinegar, lemon, and garlic.
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Final Thoughts From Cost-Effective Kitchen
Nutrient-wise, asparagus is a powerhouse!
While it is not the cheapest vegetable on the market, it is worth every penny nutrient-wise.
If you love the woodsy, grassy, earthy undertones in many vegetables, you will likely love asparagus.
However, if you aren’t a fan of vegetables like broccoli and artichokes, you may not be a fan of this springtime treat.
In that case, when eating asparagus for the first time, I would find a recipe where you love all the other ingredients. A casserole or something on the grill, perhaps? Maybe you love Asian cooking, so you decide to cook stir-fried white asparagus spears.
Remember, asparagus can become sour and bitter if overcooked but can be eaten raw. When cooking, be sure to err on the side of undercooking rather than overcooking.
But whatever you do, do not try canned asparagus first. Many of my friends love fresh asparagus but hate the canned stuff.
If you’re an asparagus fan, I’d love to know your favorite cooking tips and tricks. And if you’re a newbie and decide to give asparagus a go, let me know what you think! I would love to hear from you!
Until next time…