Spring asparagus is a wonderful blessing after a long winter. Those first tender stalks are absolutely delicious raw, straight out of the garden. If you have large home patch – or want to take advantage of the seasonal abundance in stores and farm markets – it's great to have an assortment of asparagus recipes on hand and to know how to preserve asparagus for later use. This post features over 25 healthy asparagus recipes, including soups, salads and main dishes, plus instructions on how to store asparagus and preserve it for later use.
Our own asparagus patch is still young, but our neighbors have a lovely 100+ year old farmhouse, and four different asparagus patches around the yard. For those who are not asparagus savvy, you need to keep the spears harvested during the production season. If you don't, they will get tall and produce seed, and you will have no more asparagus to harvest.
Note: The size variation in homegrown asparagus is quite substantial compared to commercial asparagus. I always went for the thinner stalks in the store, thinking they’d be more tender, but I found out while picking that they emerge from the soil at the width they will be as they grow. Thinner stalks are not any younger than fat ones, and the fat ones were often more tender and juicy. Don’t fear the fat asparagus!
How to Store Fresh Asparagus
To keep your asparagus fresh and crisp, place it upright in a container with about an inch of water in the bottom and store in the refrigerator. This will help to keep it from drying out. Best if used within one week of harvest, whether for asparagus recipes or long term storage.
Asparagus Recipes – Soups
Asparagus Chowder from Fearless Eating
Chicken and Asparagus Soup from The Organic Kitchen
Instant Pot Cream of Asparagus Soup from Recipes to Nourish
Instant Pot Spring Vegetable Soup from Raising Generation Nourished
Roasted Asparagus and Garlic Stinging Nettle Soup from Raising Generation Nourished
Asparagus Recipes – Side Dishes
Asparagus with Balsamic Sauce from This is So Good…
Baked Parmesan Asparagus Fries from Chocolate Slopes
Cheesy Grilled Asparagus from Farm Fit Living
Crispy Asparagus Fries from Yummy Inspirations
Corn Off the Cob with Red Bell Peppers and Asparagus from The Organic Kitchen
Fingerling Potato Salad with Asparagus from The Organic Kitchen
Garlicky Roasted Potatoes & Asparagus from Homespun Seasonal Living
Jamaican Stuffed Acorn Squash from Happy Mothering
Minted Asparagus Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette from nutritiouslicious
Mushroom, Asparagus & Egg Salad from Happy Mothering
Pickled Asparagus (for canning) from A Farm Girl in the Making
Penne Pasta with Asparagus and Pine Nuts from The Organic Kitchen
Sauteed Asparagus with Feta from Yummy Inspirations
Simple Bacon Wrapped Asparagus from Happy Mothering
Spring Asparagus & Fennel Sauté from Recipes to Nourish
Spring Salad with Asparagus and Honey Chipotle Vinaigrette from The Organic Kitchen
Steamed Asparagus with Black Pepper Pesto from Studio Botanica
Asparagus Recipes – Main Dishes
3 Ingredient Bacon Asparagus Frittata from Grok Grub
20 Minute Spring Stir Fry With Garlic Butter Sauce from Raising Generation Nourished
Crustless Spring Quiche from Recipes to Nourish
Grilled Bacon Sriracha Meatball Skewers with Coconut Rice from The Organic Kitchen
Spring Quiche with Asparagus and Artichoke Hearts from The Organic Kitchen
How to Freeze Asparagus
Adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, one of my favorite preserving references
Select young, tender asparagus with tightly wrapped tips.
Wash thoroughly and sort into sizes. Trim bottoms if needed (the part of the stalk closest to the ground is often tough).
Cut into bite sized pieces, or leave whole – think ahead to how you want to use your asparagus. Blanch small spears 1 1/2 minutes, medium spears 2 minutes and large spears 3 minutes. Remove from heat and plunge into cold water bath.
Drain. I first drained in a colander, and then placed them evenly spaced on a flour sack towel on top of an old, absorbent bath towel, to wick away as much excess moisture as possible before freezing.
Pack asparagus into plastic freezer bags, can-or-freeze jars, plastic freezer boxes or vacuum bags.
Seal, label and freeze.
To keep my spears in good shape, I lay out my asparagus on cookie sheets covered with reusable parchment paper and pre-freeze them before sealing them in vacuum bags the following day.
I packed the frozen spears into meal sized packages with varying amounts per package and sealed them with my vacuum sealer. My goal was to have a product that looked as good when you brought it out of the freezer as when you put it in – no ice crystals, no mushy mass of green goo, just neat, tender spears ready to be heated in a pan with a bit of butter, salt and pepper. If you plan to keep produce frozen for any amount of time – for instance, in this case, I probably won’t pull this out until winter, when fresh veggies are gone – the investment in a vacuum sealer and the small amount of extra time involved is well worth it in the HUGE improvement in quality of frozen veggies and fruits.
How to Dry Asparagus
Adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving
Choose young, tender stalks. Wash and trim bottoms, if needed.
Slice into one inch pieces. If you have really fat asparagus stalks, cut them in half lengthwise before loading them in the dehydrator. Fat pieces take much longer to dry.
Steam blanch 3 to 4 minutes, or boiling water blanch for about two minutes, until they are bright green.
Chill in a cold water bath, drain well and spread evenly on dehydrator trays. Dry at 125F (52C) until brittle. Drying time will vary depending on humidity levels and size of asparagus pieces. I usually load before bedtime and dry overnight. You want them to be very dry, so they snap easily in half, for optimum shelf life.
Seal in an airtight container. Label and store out in a cool, dark location for best shelf life. If you want to boost shelf life even more, you can use the Foodsealer jar sealer attachment and vacuum seal the jar, too. Don't leave your dehydrated veggies sitting out, especially if it is humid, as they will absorb moisture from the air.
Rehydrate and serve in soups or with seasoned cream sauce.
Isn’t it amazing how much they shrink up? If you’ve get very limited food storage space, dehydrating is the way to go. Remember the six cups I started with? After drying, it all fit into one cup sized jar.
See Home Food Drying – 6 Things You Need to Know to Dehydrate Food at Home for more information on dehydrating.
How to Lacto-Ferment (Pickle) Asparagus
This recipe is the love child of two different posts, one from Heartland Renaissance, and one from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. Since I scored some green garlic (immature garlic) from a neighbor (thanks, Deb), I figured I’d use it in the ferment. My neighbor, Betty, who provided me with the asparagus, had mentioned that she wanted to make some pickled asparagus. I’m pretty sure that she had standard pickled asparagus in mind, but I’ve been experimenting more with live cultured foods, so I used lacto-fermentation.
Lacto-fermentation is the use of water, salt, spices and sometimes whey to preserve food without heat canning. The lactobacilli bacteria that proliferate in lacto-fermented foods not only help to preserve it and give it that “pickle” flavor, they also act as little probiotic factories, making the food more digestible and increasing its nutrient value. Lacto-fermented food is loaded with healthy bacteria. I eat some every day.
Lacto-Fermented Asparagus Recipe
For each quart jar:
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
2 stalks green garlic, cut into 1 inch pieces
Enough asparagus to pack the jar tightly
4 tablespoons whey – If you do not have whey, add an extra tablespoon of salt to your salt water
Salt water – 2 tablespoons sea salt to one quart water, mix well to dissolve (you won’t need all of this to fill the jar, but it’s better to have a little extra than to run short)
Clean and trim asparagus so the spears will fit into the jars below the neck of the jar (you want to keep them covered with liquid during fermentation.) Put loose spices into jar, then pack asparagus into jars as tightly as possible (they will shrink during pickling and will want to float and pop up out of the liquid). Wedge in garlic pieces as you go.
Pour in whey. Pour in enough salt water to completely cover the asparagus, but make sure to leave one inch of head space at the top of the jar. As it ferments, gas are produced and jar contents may expand. Use an airlock, or burp jars daily.
I used atlas jars, which have wider shoulders but narrow mouths, to help wedge the asparagus in so it stayed below the water level. You can also use a smaller jar with water in it nested in a wide mouth jar, or a clean stone, or other clean weight to hold the veggies under the brine. You can also purchase airlock lids for your mason jars and pickling kits with the lids and additional fermenting equipment.
Cover jars and place in a cool, dark place. Allow to ferment for at least 3 days. After three days, you can continue fermenting, or cover tightly and move to the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process. The flavors will get stronger and the asparagus will get softer the longer it ages at room temperatures. Heat dramatically speeds up the fermentation process, so warm weather ferments will have shorter shelf lives. I kept mine on the counter for three days under a dishcloth, then moved it to the fridge.
My final product turned out a little cloudy, probably due to the whey and the “pickling spices”, which had some finer bits, and sea salt. The taste is delicious. Judging by the shelf life of other ferments I’ve tried, these should be good for several months once refrigerated, if not eaten sooner.
How to Freeze Dry Asparagus at Home
If you like the super long shelf life of freeze dried foods, it's now possible to freeze dry your own veggies at home using the Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer. Stored properly, freeze dried veggies will easily keep over 5 years. (Not sure about the difference between dehydrating and freeze drying? Learn more here.)
As with other asparagus storage methods, clean, trim and dry asparagus. I cut mine in thin diagonal slices for use in soups, casseroles and other cooked dishes.
Blanch the slices for 2-3 minutes and cool in a cold water bath. Drain well and pat dry.
Line freeze dryer trays with parchment or freezer paper for easier cleaning, and place asparagus slices in a single layer on the trays.
Load trays in freeze dryer. Close drain valve. Check oil levels in vacuum pump. Start cycle. Because of its high moisture level, asparagus will likely take over 26-30 hours to dry, depending on ambient conditions.
When cycle is complete, check dryness by breaking open some of your thickest pieces to make sure they are not cold in the center. If you have cold spots, add additional drying time. Remember, thin even slices will dry more quickly.
When asparagus is completely dry, pack into Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and seal, or vacuum seal in mason jars. Freeze dried food will absorb moisture from the air quickly, so don't leave the finished food sitting out. Freeze dried asparagus is light and crisp, and can even be eaten as a veggie chip for snacking.
Asparagus can also be pressure canned. You must use a pressure canner because it is a low acid food. I don’t can it because I don’t care for the mushy texture that canning produces. For asparagus canning instructions, see “Canning Asparagus: Easy, Fully Illustrated Step-by-Step Directions and Recipe to Make Home Canned Asparagus!” at PickYourOwn.org. For general canning information, see How to Can Food at Home – Quick Guide to Safe Home Canning.
What's your favorite way to use asparagus? Leave a comment and let me know!
You may also enjoy:
- How to Grow Asparagus
- Home Canned Salsa Recipe, Plus Tips for Safe Salsa Canning
- No Canning Required Dill Pickles