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How To Tell If Asparagus Is Bad

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Spring brings about the appearance of asparagus at local farmer’s markets and grocery stores, and you might be one of the first to rush out and stock up on this seasonal vegetable.

Asparagus does often come with a fairly high price tag, and while many of us are happy to pay this to get to enjoy the vegetable at home, you would want to make sure that you actually get to eat the asparagus before it goes off.

How do you know if asparagus has gone bad? There are a few ways to tell if asparagus has gone bad. The color of the asparagus may have become dark or brown, the texture may become soft or slimy, and the asparagus could develop an unpleasant odor. All these signs indicate that asparagus is on its way out and either needs to be used immediately or thrown out.

To prevent you from eating asparagus that has gone bad or wasting asparagus by missing signs that it is spoiling, here is everything you need to know on how to tell if asparagus has gone bad, and some extra storage tips to extend its shelf life!

Signs That Asparagus Has Gone Bad

There is more than one way to tell whether asparagus has gone bad. With a few signs to look for, you should be able to quickly pick up on whether or not the asparagus is still fine to eat.

Rather be safe and look for signs of spoiling than eat something that is past its best-by date!

As with other fresh foods, it is fairly easy to tell whether asparagus has gone bad, but knowing all the signs to look for definitely does help! Here is what to look for to tell if asparagus has gone bad:

Black Or Dark Tips

The first sign that shows when asparagus starts to go off is the tips darkening. The tips are undoubtedly the best part of asparagus, but unfortunately, they are the first part that starts to spoil.

The tips of asparagus will begin to darken to a dark green or even black once it begins to spoil. Other than darkening in color, the tips or heads of the vegetable will also become mushy and fall apart when touched.

If you notice that the tips of the asparagus are dark and mushy, it is not worth trying to eat them!

Limp Stalks

As asparagus goes bad, the stalks lose their firmness and become limper. They also begin to shrivel up a bit, and just do not look healthy at all.

Even though the stalk of the asparagus might be limp and slightly shriveled, if there are no other signs of the asparagus being bad, they are still fine to cook up and eat.

Avoid eating them raw, as the texture won’t have that same firmness or crunch that you would be looking for, it would be best in a stew or casserole.

Bad Odor

Asparagus is known to have a certain smell to it, but fresh, uncooked asparagus should not have an off odor. If asparagus has started to go bad, it will develop a foul odor

A bad odor from asparagus would not be the only sign that it has spoiled, and if you notice a bad smell coming from the asparagus, you would most likely see other signs of spoiling, such as limp stalks or dark, blackened tips.

Slimy Coating

Asparagus that is going bad can develop a slimy coating on the outside.

This often happens when the asparagus has been kept in a bag or container with too much moisture, or when the asparagus bunch has been kept too close together.

Eating slimy asparagus is not high on most of our to-do lists, so it might be best to just throw slimy asparagus away, as chances are it might have other signs that it has gone bad too.

Mold

Asparagus that is well on its way to being bad would begin to grow mold. No matter how well you store the asparagus, after a certain amount of time, mold will begin to grow.

It is a good idea to just throw away any asparagus that is growing mold, as this is a good sign that it has already gone bad.

The asparagus in your fridge might show one sign, or a few of the above when it has gone bad. Just having a limp stalk means it is on its way to going bad, but it is still fine to eat.

However, if you notice any of the other signs that asparagus is going off, it is best to throw it away and purchase a new bunch from the grocery store.

Proper storage will allow for the asparagus to last longer, but it does have a certain shelf life, and after a certain amount of time, the asparagus will go off.

How To Properly Store Asparagus

Stored properly, asparagus can be kept in the fridge for up to 7 days. This does depend on how fresh it was when you bought it, but generally, asparagus will keep for 5-7 days when stored properly.

Most of the time, asparagus is sold bound together in a bunch with a rubber band, or in a plastic bag.

If you are planning on using the asparagus that night or the next day, it would be fine to keep them in this packaging, but if not, you should prepare them for longer-term storage.

The first thing to do would be to remove the asparagus from the plastic packaging or remove the rubber band from the bunch.

If you want, you can leave the elastic band on the asparagus to keep them together, but just make sure it does not bind them too tightly together)

There are two options on how to store the asparagus:

  • Wrap the bottom of the asparagus stalks in a paper towel, dampening it slightly. This will help keep the asparagus fresh for up to 7 days.
  • Put the asparagus spears in a glass of water placed in the refrigerator. This keeps the asparagus fresher for longer, allowing them to last up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

If necessary, you can still place a plastic bag loosely over the asparagus just to keep them contained and away from other ingredients in the fridge, but it is not necessary.

Just make sure that if you do place a plastic bag over the asparagus, the asparagus still has space to breathe, and it does not become too stuffy, as it could be exposed to too much moisture.

For cooked asparagus, you can keep it in the fridge in an airtight container. This protects the asparagus from other food in the fridge, and from giving the fridge a very asparagus smell.

An airtight container will also keep the cooked asparagus fresher for longer, as long as it is eaten in 4 days.

How Long Can Asparagus Last In The Fridge?

How long asparagus lasts in the fridge does depend on how fresh it was when you bought it or picked it, and how you have stored it in the fridge.

The shelf life of asparagus can change quite significantly depending on how it is stored, so take note of the below estimates to know how to store the asparagus for when you want to use it:

  • Placed into the fridge in original packaging – 3 days
  • Wrapped in a damp paper towel – 7 days
  • Placed in a glass of water – 14 days
  • Cooked and placed in a plastic container – 4 days

Freezing Asparagus

If you are unsure as to whether or not you will use the asparagus before it goes off, or if you have got a really great deal on a whole lot of asparagus, you could choose to freeze it to keep it fresh for a much longer time.

When freezing asparagus, it will lose some of its texture and will be softer when thawed, so it will not be the best idea to eat it raw, but it can be added into other meals such as soups or stew.

This is a great way to enjoy asparagus even when it is not in season.

Choose asparagus that is fresh and which have bright green stalks, as these would freeze best and taste fresher when thawed.

Here is how to prepare and freeze asparagus for the best results:

  1. Wash the asparagus spears properly and trim the ends.
  2. Remove the woody stalks from the more tender areas of the asparagus by holding the asparagus at the base and bending it slightly until it snaps.
  3. You then need to blanch the asparagus before it is frozen. 
  4. Place a pot of water on the stove and allow it to come to a boil. Add the asparagus into the water and allow it to boil for 5 minutes.
  5. When done, quickly remove the asparagus from the boiling water and place it into a bowl filled with ice and water, this cools them down so they do not keep cooking.
  6. The other option is to steam asparagus in a steam basket. This will also take around 5 minutes, and they should be placed into an ice water bath after being taken out of the food steamer.
  7. The water bath prevents the asparagus from cooking further and cools them down to allow them to freeze quicker too.
  8. Once cooled, lay the asparagus stalks onto a baking sheet and place them into the freezer. 
  9. When the asparagus stalks are frozen, remove them from the baking sheet and place them in a plastic freezer bag. Squeeze out all of the air and then seal the plastic freezer bag shut.
  10. Label with the date of freezing.

The asparagus stalks can be kept in the freezer for up to 12 months, and while they will be fine to eat after this point, the quality and taste will begin to decline.

Freezing the asparagus stalks on the baking sheet firsts allows them to freeze separately and not clumped together like they would have if you had just placed them into a freezer bag and frozen them that way.

As they will be frozen separately, you can reach in and grab as many as you want to use for dinner, without having to defrost the whole lot.

Is It Okay To Eat Asparagus Raw?

Most people choose to cook their asparagus before eating it, but asparagus can be eaten raw as well. Cooking does make asparagus softer and easier to eat, as it will be less fibrous and easier to digest, but eating it raw can be enjoyable as well.

To eat asparagus raw, it is advisable to peel away the woody parts of the asparagus and only eat the tender parts. You could either eat the asparagus whole or chop it into smaller pieces.

If it is still too fibrous to eat plain, you can add some lemon juice or vinegar (some sort of edible acidity) to soften the fibers and make them easier to eat. It also adds some great flavor to the asparagus.

By eating asparagus raw, you get to enjoy all of the nutritional benefits it has to offer, as some nutrients can be lost when the asparagus is cooked, steamed, or boiled.

Can I Cut Out Bad Spots From Asparagus?

If your asparagus has started to show signs that it is going off, there might be a chance that you can still use it.

If there are some bad spots on the asparagus, before any other serious signs of spoiling appear, you can cut out these bad spots and still use the rest of the asparagus.

For when you notice the tips of the asparagus begin to darken and have black spots, you can cut the tips off (even though they are the best part) and still use the stalks.

The stalks can still be eaten and enjoyed, and used in a stew or casserole.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over how to tell whether or not the asparagus has gone bad, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

Is it bad to eat asparagus that is old?

You should avoid eating old asparagus, especially if you notice any slimy or soft parts, or if the asparagus has an off smell and mold.

It is best to not eat asparagus that shows any signs of spoiling. Not only will it have a lower nutrient content, but it will taste off and possibly even make you ill.

Why does asparagus sometimes turn purple?

Asparagus can sometimes turn purple, and this is due to the purple pigment in the asparagus being exposed to a certain heat and activating, turning the vegetable a more purple color.

What color should cooked asparagus be?

Cooked asparagus should be a green color, or depending on the variant, purple or white. The color should be vibrant and the asparagus should be firm.

If the asparagus begins to brown, it is a sign that it is getting old and should not be eaten.

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