Frequently asked questions

How long do I boil asparagus?
Trim stem ends slightly and cook fresh asparagus for 5 -8 minutes in boiling water for a crisp and tender result.

Can asparagus be peeled?
Asparagus does not have to be peeled but some people prefer it that way. Use a potato or vegetable peeler to peel the skin from the stalk, especially towards the base.

Can asparagus be eaten raw?
Although most people prefer asparagus cooked in some way, it is perfectly safe to eat asparagus raw. Just rinse it well in warm water to remove any sand and serve cold with a dip.

How do I pick the best asparagus?
Look for firm, fresh, spears with closed, compact tips and uniform diameter, so that all spears will cook in the same amount of time. Larger diameter spears are more tender.

How should asparagus be stored?
Keep fresh asparagus clean, cold, and covered. Trim the stem ends about 1/4 inch and wash in warm water several times. Pat dry and place in moisture-proof wrapping. Refrigerate and use within 2 or 3 days for best quality. To maintain freshness, wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends, or stand upright in two inches of cold water.

How long does asparagus have to grow before it can be cultivated?
Three seasons pass before the asparagus plant can be harvested. In its first season of growth, a crown forms with six inches of root. In the second season, the crown grows into a fern. Asparagus can be harvested in its third year, and reaches its prime after 6-8 years, when it can yield as much as one to two tons per acre when grown commercially.

What vegetables are related to asparagus?
The asparagus plant is a member of the lily family, which also includes onions, leeks and garlic.

When was asparagus first cultivated?
Asparagus was first cultivated about 2500 years ago in Greece. The name is a Greek word, meaning stalk or shoot. The Greeks believed asparagus was a herbal medicine which, among other things, would cure toothaches and prevent bee stings. Second century Physician, Galen, described asparagus as "cleansing and healing". Claims for medicinal benefits of asparagus persist to this day. The Romans became great lovers of asparagus, and grew it in high-walled courtyards. In their conquests, they spread it to the Gauls, Germans, Britains and from there, the rest of the world.

Why does my urine smell funny after consuming asparagus?
Most authorities feel that the compound that causes the odor in urine after consumption of asparagus is methylmercaptan, which is a sulfur-containing derivative of the amino acid, methionine. This is disputed by a few individuals who claim that the odiferous compound is asparagine-amino-succinic-acid monoamide, which is derived from the amino acid, asparagine. In either case, the product is formed as a derivative during the digestion and subsequent breakdown of beneficial amino acids that occur naturally in asparagus. (Ref: Merck Index, 862; Food Chemistry, Belitz and Grosch, pg. 271.)

What do I do with the fern growth after I am done harvesting asparagus?
Do not cut it down until the fall when it has turned all brown. The fern is what feeds the crown nutrients so that it will produce spears again in the spring.

Helpful links

Today's Dietitian magazine
Description: The Magazine for Nutrition Professionals.

Today's Diet and Nutrition magazine
Description: The Magazine for Food, Fitness, and Well-Being.
Description: The Premier Allied Health Employment site.

Food Bank Council of Michigan 
Michigan Agricultural Surplus System Information