Asparagus is a delicious yet expensive food, and folks have been raving about it since forever.
Whenever you get to actually cooking asparagus, you find yourself snapping the thicker ends off.
But do we need to do that ? Do we really need to snap the end of asparagus stalks off ? Are they really that bad ?
This is what we’ll be tackling today, and hopefully you’ll walk away with a fresh idea in mind.
Should you snap asparagus ?
No, you don’t need to snap asparagus. The main reason folks snap asparagus is because the lower ends are a little thicker and tougher.
This leads to different cooking times, and asparagus is a very sensitive vegetable.
Snapping the ends off simply means the whole spear is an even thickness. There’s nothing wrong with those ends, they don’t need to be thrown away.
That being said, you can use the whole stalk if you have the proper cooking method. We’ll cover that in more detail soon.
You lose about 25% asparagus by snapping it
Let’s look a bit at how much you actually lose when you snap or cut off the asparagus stalks.
For most folks asparagus is a splurge, something they treat themselves to. Especially in the West, where vegetables and fruits come at a higher than average price.
So, let’s take a look at what you lose when you snap off asparagus stalks.
First, a bunch of asparagus (about 400 gr/1 lb) is about 3.00 USD minimum, depending on where you get it from.
When it’s out of season (most of the year) it’s actually more expensive, so this is the minimum.
The bit of the stalk that usually gets snapped off is around 25% of the stalk’s total length. We’re using the ‘see where it bends and snaps’ method.
This is the most common way of deciding where to snap the asparagus, but it’s not necessarily the best.
As it turns out, asparagus will break wherever you apply pressure to it – much like a twig. So you won’t really get an accurate read this way.
Another important point, some stalks are cut so well they don’t even have the woody bit at the end. And still they get snapped off. More loss.
Now, most folks (including us for a long time) just throw away those woody bits. And that’s a 25% waste. That’s 25% of an asparagus stalk, totally edible.
You’re throwing away 75 cents each time you cook asparagus this way. It may not sound like much it but it adds up. Especially if you’re an asparagus enthusiast and buy a lot when they’re available.
Again, remember that this is the minimum. We found this price at Target, in wholesale, for online orders.
The most common prices for asparagus are actually in the 5-7 USD range, and that gets you to about 1,50 USD loss for each bunch.
Given how expensive asparagus is, there’s incentive to use the whole vegetable to its full potential.
So in short, snapping asparagus is not only unnecessary, it’s also wasteful and definitely something you should try and avoid.
But what should you do then ? Snap the ends and cook them ? Cook the whole stalk as-is ?
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The thick, lower ends are edible as well
You can eat the lower ends, of course. They just need a little more cooking time than the rest of the stalk.
If you’ve snapped them off, you can cook them separately. Give them an extra minute or two and they should be fine.
A great way to use them is of you cut them into smaller pieces, and throw them into a pasta dish. Or in a nice beef stew, right towards the end.
Some folks prefer to peel the outer parts of the woody bits. There’s nothing wrong with that, since it reduces cooking times.
But if you want to cook them as-is, you don’t need to peel them. Proper cooking will yield tender asparagus, no matter the thickness.
Can you eat whole asparagus ?
Yes, you can eat whole asparagus. There’s no need to snap the ends off, and you can enjoy them whole. This simply means you need to be smart about cooking the spears.
Whole asparagus is very good for presentation purposes, with some nice bacon wrapped around it, or to use as separators in a large serving platter.
Even if the only person you’re impressing is yourself (and maybe the cat), you can still have whole asparagus.
There’s a few ways you can cook whole asparagus, without cutting or snapping the ends off.
What you need to be mindful of is the difference between the tender crown and the thicker ends.
The crown will cook first, and quickest. A bit of a crispy crown may sound fun, but a burnt one isn’t.
So try and make sure your lower ends aren’t that much thicker than the crown.
This can mean either a smart way of cooking them, or simply peeling the outer skins until the ends are the same thickness as the mids.
Here’s a few ideas to get you started on cooking whole asparagus efficiently.
Cook whole asparagus with the ends wrapped in foil
Wrapping asparagus ends in foil will concentrate heat there, and provide more moisture.
This will steam and cook the ends at about the same rate as the rest of the stalk.
You will need to remove the foil towards the end, when or if you want to give them a bit of a crisp.
Cook whole asparagus wrapped in bacon
By cooking asparagus wrapped in bacon you get two things.
First, you get nice, crispy bacon all around the stalk.
Second, you get the ends exposed to more direct heat. The bacon will protect the mid and crowns, since heat won’t go through it in the first couple of minutes.
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Cook whole asparagus and split the ends
If you’re looking for a much simpler way of cooking whole asparagus, aside from just peeling the woody ends, there’s another way.
Look at the asparagus spear, and see where the thicker part starts. With a knife you can cut straight through, lengthwise (about an inch).
You’re making two little legs, if that makes sense. But those little legs will be easier to cook, since this way heat and water will cook them.
Another option is to prick the ends with a fork, making sure you get in deep enough.
The whole point of this (pricking or splitting) is to allow moisture and heat to get right into the asparagus stalk. This means faster cooking, allowing it to be done at the same time as the mids and crown.
Now, all that being said, there is on instance where you definitely need to cut off the ends.
Notice we said cut, not snap. This is because we’re looking to preserve as much of asparagus as possible.
The only reason to cut off and discard the end of an asparagus is when it’s very, very dry and turning a whitish color.
Those parts can’t be salvaged and cooking them won’t end well.