Does Asparagus Go Bad?

So you’ve bought asparagus to try out in a recipe or two. You used half of the spears and put the rest into storage. And after a day or two, you start to wonder: does asparagus go bad?

You definitely don’t want it to spoil before you get a chance to use it. Plus it’s a quite expensive veggie, and you’re a conscious spender.

Or maybe you’ve heard that asparagus has a really short shelf life, and you wanted to learn what’s the best way to store it. So once you get home with the stalks, you can put them where they belong right away. That’s called good planning.

In this article, we cover the storage of asparagus and a few tricks to help you keep it fresh for longer. We also talk about its shelf life and signs of spoilage. If any of these topics are of interest to you, read on.

Lots of asparagus
Image used under Creative Commons from liz west

How to Store Asparagus

For starters, raw asparagus is sold with a rubber band around the bunch. Do not remove the band when you get home. It will help secure the spears during storage.

Asparagus, unlike most other veggies, thrives in a damp environment. So even though it’s often available in the produce section instead of the refrigerated section, the best place to keep it in is the fridge. While you can just toss the bunch in the refrigerator in the plastic bag you brought it in, that’s far away from perfect.

As I mentioned, asparagus likes moisture, and that’s what you can use to make it last longer. The simple solution here is to wrap the bottom of the stalks in a damp paper towel and put them back into the bag, leaving it unsealed.

Five asparagus spears
(credit: Keegan Houser)

If you need the stalks to stay fresh for about a week or more, you can try a more sophisticated method of storing the spears in a jar with some water.

To do that, you need a jar or container with about an inch of water. You place the asparagus upright in that container and loosely cover the top of the stalks with a plastic or freezer bag. Do not secure the bag, just drape it over the bunch. The vegetable still needs some air circulation to keep fresh. Change the water if it gets cloudy.

When it comes to cooked asparagus, transfer the spears to an airtight container, close the lead and refrigerate or freeze.

Asparagus for sale

Can You Freeze Asparagus

Even if you follow the fancy storage methods outlined above, asparagus still does not last that long. And it’s way too pricey to leave it to waste.

Fortunately enough, it freezes fairly well. So if you bought too much on a sale or your plans have changed, and you aren’t able to cook it within a few days of buying, freezing it is the way to go.

The freezing method for asparagus is quite similar to freezing broccoli. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Prep. Wash, trim and cut the asparagus.
  2. Blanching. Now it’s time to blanch it (here’s how). Before you put the asparagus into the boiling water, sort the stalks by thickness. You should blanch small ones for 90 seconds, medium for 120 seconds and thick ones for up to 180 seconds. Generally, each spear should take on a bright green hue after blanching.
  3. Cooldown. After the boiling period, transfer the stalks into cold water.
  4. Dry thoroughly. Drain the water, and let the spears dry for 10 – 20 minutes. Pat them dry with paper towels.
  5. Packaging. Divide the stalks into a few portions if you won’t need them all at once and put each one into a separate freezer bag. Then squeeze as much air out of the bag, and seal it tight. Add a label with a date if needed and chuck into the freezer.
  6. Freeze.
Steaming asparagus
Image used under Creative Commons from Ann Larie Valentine

How Long Does Asparagus Last

Fresh raw asparagus lasts about 3 to 4 days in the fridge on its own. Give the paper towel technique a go, to get 2 to 3 days more of storage time. If you go all in and choose the jar-with-water method, you can expect the spears to keep quality for about 10 days, up to 2 weeks.

Tip

If you need to keep asparagus for longer, freezing is the way to go

When it comes to cooked asparagus, it retains quality for about 3 to 5 days in the fridge. Just like with its uncooked counterpart, freezing is how you preserve it for longer.

 Fridge
Asparagus3 – 4 days
Asparagus with a wet paper towel5 – 7 days
Asparagus in jar with water10 – 14 days
Cooked asparagus3 – 5 days

Please note the periods above are only estimates.

How to Tell If Asparagus Has Gone Bad?

It’s quite easy to tell if asparagus has gone bad.

Fresh asparagus has dark green tips and firm stalks. If the asparagus has turned abnormally soft or mushy, or black spots start developing all over the stalks, discard it right away. Discolored stems are also a sign that the asparagus is no longer safe to eat. Same thing if slimy residue sets it.

Like with other veggies, you can cut out the bad parts (and some extra), or discard only the spoiled spears and use the rest. However, if there are more bad parts than the good parts, you probably should throw it out altogether.

Before cooking the veggie, give it a good whiff. If it doesn’t smell fresh but has a rotten, acrid smell to it, throw it out.