What Does Asparagus Taste Like?

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Asparagus = Yum

Crisp yet tender.

Savory though delicately sweet.

Bright green (though only when perfectly cooked).

Asparagus is one of the most unique vegetables and the one most likely to change entirely depending on how you prepare it. But you may not know what asparagus tastes like. Its appearance is enough to put anyone off, particularly kids who suddenly morph into Olympic sprinters at the sight of green veggies.

Perhaps then, unsurprisingly, asparagus is the number one food we hated as kids but love as adults, according to one study. Once you give it a chance, you’re sure to love the delicious taste and incredible versatility of this veg!

Still not sure what asparagus tastes like? Wondering how to buy the perfect stalks and cook a sumptuous dinner? Learn all these things and more right here.

The Unique Taste of Asparagus

Asparagus undoubtedly has a distinct and robust flavor. But just what that means to you will depend on, well, you. Most people, however, agree that the taste of asparagus reminds them of green beans, mushrooms, and broccoli. Overall, it’s a bit grassy, it’s a tad bitter, and it’s mildly sweet.

So how can one vegetable cause so much flavor confusion? Because it all depends on how farmers harvest it, how you prepare it, and what you serve with it. More on that next.

eggs, cherry tomatoes, asparagus and lemon

Flavors That Go Well With Asparagus

One thing you will adore about asparagus is its versatility. It makes a tasty and beautiful addition to any meal. And asparagus is wonderful at highlighting the depths of flavor in other foods.

Perhaps the most natural flavors that go well with asparagus, especially for beginners, are lemon and butter. A pat of butter atop fresh-cooked asparagus will bring out its natural flavors while tempering any residual bitterness. You can also opt to squeeze fresh lemon over asparagus before serving. Lemon’s zippy citrus taste will enhance the bright flavor asparagus has naturally while also muting its blander attributes.

If you’re looking to enhance asparagus’s decadence, consider drizzling it with a creamy sauce like hollandaise or tahini. The reason asparagus has found its way to classic brunch dishes, like eggs benedict, is because its crisp texture and slightly bitter, grassy taste is a fresh counterpart to an otherwise rich dish.

Another can’t-miss way to prepare asparagus with complementing flavors is as a stir-fry. Grab your favorite veggies, like tomatoes, potatoes, and onion, and throw them in a skillet with diced asparagus, garlic, and soy sauce.

Asparagus will help cut through the potatoes’ richness, with tomato serving as a bit of sweetness and acid needed to balance asparagus’s bitter grass flavor. And of course, garlic, onion, and soy sauce are all superb additions to almost any green veggie, particularly here as they highlight and enhance asparagus’s distinct mellow taste.

chopped asparagus on a chopping board

The 12 Types of Asparagus

It gets better: yes, there are 12 different types of asparagus! You’ve probably noticed different varieties when perusing the produce at the grocery store. Let’s take a glimpse at all 12:

  • Green: Undoubtedly, what comes to your mind when you think of asparagus. Green asparagus has rough, pale ends, feathery tips, and stalks that become even more vibrant when delicately cooked.
  • White: White asparagus does not have the signature green color since it’s grown in darkness, preventing photosynthesis. While it has the same taste and texture as traditional green asparagus, it is more expensive, and therefore maybe not the one to purchase while you’re still honing your asparagus skills.
  • Purple: This vibrant asparagus variety gets its purple hue from the antioxidant anthocyanin. It has less fiber and more sugar than green asparagus, so it’s more tender and less bitter.
  • Wild: Wild asparagus is, you guessed it, grown in the wild. It’s also thinner and wispier than its green, white, and purple counterparts.
  • Apollo: A hardy asparagus, Apollo is ideal for various needs, like freezing, processing, and serving fresh. It has dark green stalks and purple tips.
  • Atlas: Atlas asparagus is like Apollo in appearance and resilience. What sets it apart is its ability to grow nine inches long, making it one colossal asparagus option.
  • Jersey Series: These hybrid asparagus blend all-male plants and have thick, “meaty” stalks.
  • Mary Washington: This traditional asparagus is popular in the U.S. and favored for its delectable flavor and reliable growth. It has thick stalks and purple feathering at its tips.
  • Precoce D’Argenteuil: With its whitish-green hue and rosy pink tips, Precoce D’Argenteuil asparagus stands out from the asparagus crowd. It’s most popular in Europe and has a mild sweet flavor.
    Purple Passion: Purple Passion asparagus is as tasty as it is lovely, boasting both bright green and purple colors. Its rich flavor makes it ideal for salads and other preparations in which you only cook it only lightly.
  • UC 157: This hybrid asparagus is one of the most popular at farmers’ markets. It’s hardy and has a mild green hue.
  • Viking KB3: Aptly named, Viking asparagus has long, pencil-thin stalks that look like something a Viking would wield for weaponry. It is a type of Mary Washington that boasts a thick stem and rich flavor.

Asparagus 101: How to Buy and Cook It

You often see asparagus present on the menus of fancy restaurants (or, in my case, on the menus of fancy restaurants shown in movies, from the comfort of my sofa.) The reason chefs prize asparagus is that it is beautiful and tasty. Preparing it to perfection speaks to their considerable skills. It’s also on the pricier end of the fresh produce spectrum, hence the fancy restaurant shout-out.

But no matter your kitchen prowess or budget, you can absolutely still buy asparagus and cook it at restaurant quality. How? Here are our favorite tips for buying and cooking asparagus.

  • For green and purple varieties, look for the brightest colored bunch at the market.
  • Look for thicker spears if you prefer “meatier” asparagus and thinner spears if you prefer a tender texture.
  • Once you bring your asparagus home, wash it well and chop off its pale, fibrous tips.
  • You can then roast, boil, grill, or steam asparagus, depending on your preference.
    • To perfectly boil asparagus, drop the bunch into a pot of boiling water and cook for 3-5 minutes until it achieves a bright green hue. After, rinse it well in cold water or place it in an ice bath to prevent it from getting mushy.
    • For roasting, first season asparagus with a pinch of salt and pepper, lemon, garlic, and olive oil drizzle. Roast for 8-10 minutes.
    • Grill asparagus indoors or outdoors. Season it with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon, and garlic and grill until there are char marks.
    • Put asparagus in your steamer and cook for about ten minutes. After, season it with salt, pepper, lemon, and garlic.

Health Benefits of Eating Asparagus

Here’s the scoop: besides being delicious and simple to prepare, asparagus has oodles of health benefits! It is low in calories and fat, high in fiber, and a decent protein source. It’s rich in vitamins K, A, C and boasts micronutrients like folate, potassium, iron, zinc, and riboflavin.

Can You Eat the Entire Asparagus?

Not quite. When you buy asparagus, you’ll notice it has woody, pale, almost bristly ends. Bend and snap by hand or use a knife to chop these off before cooking.

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