Just like any other fresh vegetable you might buy at a market or even grow yourself in a victory garden, asparagus does not come with the sort of sell-by or best-used-by dates of processed foods.
This leaves most people stuck with having to use the date that they purchased or harvested their asparagus as the guideline for how “old” their food is.
Since asparagus is an organic item and thus only good for so long, this article has been written with the goal of informing consumers about the signs that their asparagus has gone bad or is just approaching rot.
“Why Would My Asparagus Go Bad? It is Too Delicious To Ever Go Off!”
- The most obvious way to avoid any kind of food from going bad is to consume it. Fortunately in the case of asparagus, its sheer number of culinary options means that it is quite the multi-purposed vegetable crop.
- Asparagus is a great source of fiber and nutrients, including anti-carcinogenic glutathione and age-defying antioxidants. This vegetable also has such a distinct color, shape, taste and saturation of vitamins that it is often used as an accompaniment to main courses like tuna, risotto, lamb and pasta. As a consequence of this pedigree, asparagus is also on the pricier end of the vegetable scale; allowing it to wilt, rot or mold is the same as holding your hard-earned money over an open fire.
- While a funky smell is a common sign that food has gone rotten, asparagus is also known for causing things to smell a bit odd, in a unique way, when going to the bathroom after consuming it. This is due to the presence of mercaptan, a sulphur-based compound that also shows up in rotten eggs, onions and garlic. In the case of asparagus, it can take as few as 15 to 30 minutes for the body to break mercaptan down and impart that distinctive to the consumer’s urine.
The Chef’s Knife Or The Reaper’s Scythe
This section will address just how long asparagus can last before it goes off, rots or becomes spoiled.
- Raw asparagus can keep at room temperature anywhere from three to four days. Cooked asparagus that is left at room temperature can potentially last one more day than its raw form, making it good for anywhere between three to five days. A batch of fresh asparagus can keep in a refrigerator for anywhere between five to seven days. Surprisingly, cooked asparagus lasts just as long as fresh, raw asparagus.
If you are eyeing a means of long term storage, frozen asparagus can last between six and eight months. Just remember that you should either blanch or cook the asparagus before freezing it and that you should always use a freezer-safe container. If you are unfamiliar with how to blanch something, which is also useful when dealing with broccoli, here is a guide.
- Boil a pot of water.
- Sort your asparagus stalks by their thickness.
- Allow the smaller stalks to stay in the pot for 90 seconds.
- Mid-sized stalks should remain within the pit for two minutes.
- Your thickest stalks need 3 whole minutes of boiling to be sufficiently blanched.
- Move the stalks to a separate bowl of ice water as soon as their boiling time is up. Doing this stops the asparagus from continuing to cook despite raising its temperature.
- Drain the ice water bowl of its water and allow the vegetables to rest for an amount of time ranging from 10 to 20 minutes.
If you are trying to conserve how much water you use in your home, you can also resort to steaming vegetables when blanching them.
- In the event that you intend to freeze your asparagus, likely because freezing is the best way of storing any vegetable over a prolonged amount of time, make sure that you thoroughly wipe away any moisture that remains after blanching or cooking it. Any significant amount of moisture that is allowed to remain in contact with asparagus as it freezes will only lead to an increased risk of value- and taste-ruining freezer burn in that food.
- The ideal refrigerator storage protocol for asparagus stalks is to leave them intact, bound up with a rubber band, unwashed and resting within an upright glass of water, leaving just the tips to stick out above the water line. If you want to maximize your asparagus’ viability, feel free to place a plastic bag or cling wrap over the exposed tips. Make sure that you do not seal the bag around the asparagus; it still needs a bit of oxygen and sealing it within a bag will only expedite the process of asparagus decomposition. If stored this way, your asparagus can keep for anywhere from 10 to 14 days.
If you plan on cooking your asparagus soon after buying it, you can use the following technique.
- Expose one or more paper towels to just enough water to make it damp.
- Wrap the bottoms of your asparagus with the paper towels.
- Place the paper-wrapped asparagus within a resealable plastic bag.
- Store the bagged and wrapped asparagus in your fridge’s vegetable drawer.
Whichever method you use to keep your asparagus viable, remember that this crop keeps longest if stored within water.
Watch Out For The Warning Signs
- Asparagus has a least one notable way of informing you that you have waited too long to do anything useful with it. The tips, widely regarded as the tastiest part of this crop, are the first aspect to decay. If you are worried about your asparagus, examine its tips. Healthy, edible asparagus has
- If the tips have gone nearly all black in color and turn to sludge at the slightest touch, you have bad asparagus.
- If only the tips of your asparagus have gone bad, the good news is that this crop can still be salvaged. In this case, immediately chop off and trash the tips and cook the remaining portions. While you will have missed your window to enjoy those tasty, tasty asparagus tips, you can still waste less of the money you spent buying or raising the crop to begin with. Slimy tips are a portent that the rest of the asparagus is not long for this world. Slimy asparagus also serves as an excellent environment for one or more varieties of mold to start growing.
Another warning sign to watch out for only comes up if you happen to be storing your asparagus within a glass of water. If your water does not look like water, i.e. it appears to be quite cloudy, you should immediately throw out the water and check on the state of your asparagus. Depending on your asparagus’ condition, you now have three options.
- Toss our your rotten asparagus.
- Remove the tips and cook it immediately, as covered in the previous paragraph.
- Keep the asparagus in its jar and fill the jar with new water.
The last sign that your asparagus has gone off is the same sign as any other type o produce. If your asparagus smells off or even downright foul, the time has come for you to toss it into the trashcan. You might also want to keep the rotten asparagus within its container so as not to attract vermin and pests looking for a free meal.