Do you know how to tell if asparagus is bad? In this educational article, we take an in-depth look at spoiled asparagus and how you can differentiate it from old ones. This will enable you to choose the freshest ingredients and avoid getting sick from old ones.
If you love learning about ingredients and kitchen hacks, you have to check out the many guides I have on my site. Some that my readers find most helpful are How To Convert 400ºF To ºC and How To Tell If Broccoli Is Bad.
Old Asparagus Versus Spoiled Asparagus
Before we dive specifically into how to tell when asparagus is bad, it’s important to know that old isn’t necessarily spoiled.
Usually, when we refer to “old” food, it’s right before they start deteriorating and becoming unusable, aka unsafe to eat.
For example, an old onion is pretty bland, doesn’t produce a very aromatic fragrance, and has a shriveled, dried texture. But it is still safe to eat. Spoiled onions are moldy, mushy, rotten, and black.
Old asparagus is just less than optimal (fresh) to use. You can use old asparagus in soups or stews, where their lack of texture and flavor won’t be as noticeable as, for example, blanching and serving them clean.
Now, sometimes the lines are a little blurry. So, if you are ever unsure whether or not your asparagus spears are just old or if they are actually spoiled, it is best (and safest) to toss them out.
How To Tell If Asparagus Is Bad
So, let’s get to it! There are a couple of ways you can figure out if you have bad asparagus.
Keep in mind that it is always best to identify more than one of these signs. However, some of these are pretty obvious. As an example, if your asparagus is mushy, it is spoiled. But, if it is only the color that is faded, you may just be working with old asparagus, which is still safe to eat.
What Does Bad Asparagus Look Like?
When asparagus starts aging, it will first lose its bright dark green color. At first, the color will just become dull. Usually, dull asparagus is still safe to eat if you don’t notice any other signs of spoilage.
It is bad when the spears start turning brown, yellow, or black. Even spots of discoloration are not good!
The discoloration starts on the stems first. After quite a long time the tips will discolor as well. If the tips change color, the spears are already way past their use-by date. This is the first way how to tell if asparagus is bad.
As the color of the stems starts to change, the asparagus also loses its firm, crunchy texture. It will first get soft and a little limp. Eventually, it will become mushy, slimy, and gooey.
Once the spears are mushy, they will likely already have turned completely black.
Other signs that you may see on spoiled asparagus are a sticky substance and even visible mold growth. It’s usually white mold that grows on vegetables.
Some people love to say that white mold is safe to eat. But that is not true! There is no way to determine (with your naked eye) exactly what type of mold is on the asparagus.
Other Common Signs To Tell If Asparagus Is Bad
The only other non-visual sign that shows if asparagus has gone bad is an odor.
This is an already aromatic and quite pungent vegetable. So, when it spoils, you can just imagine how foul it smells!
But, from my experience, unlike most rotting food, it doesn’t smell sour or acidic. It’s more of a rotting vegetative smell.
And obviously, the longer the bad asparagus is kept, the worse the smell will get.
How Long Does Fresh Asparagus Last?
Fresh store-bought asparagus doesn’t have an extremely long shelf life. And unlike most other vegetables, it spoils in less than a week.
If you store asparagus perfectly inside the fridge, it will last up to 7 days. But, on average, most people will need to use theirs within 3-5 days.
If you have freshly harvested asparagus spears (from either your own garden or a farmer’s market), they are more likely to last around two weeks.
Now, there is a way to extend the shelf life of store-bought asparagus by almost a week (so roughly 10 days total). But it doesn’t always work. You can read up on this trick in the “How To Store” section.
How Long Does Cooked Asparagus Last?
Cooked asparagus can only last a day or two inside the fridge. However, it is really best to eat or use all of the cooked spears immediately, especially if you are serving them plain.
Leftover soups and stews will hide the soft, mushy cooked texture, which is why it’s fine to store them. But plain spears are just not appealing after a couple of days.
How To Store Asparagus
When storing asparagus for only a couple of days, you don’t have to trim its edges.
You can simply wrap the entire bunch in damp paper towels. Make sure they are covered well. Then, place the entire wrapped bunch inside a zip-lock bag or airtight container.
Store the asparagus inside the fridge for roughly 3-7 days. You can place it in either your crisper drawer or vegetable drawer. Even the back of the refrigerator will work.
Make sure they don’t freeze. Freezer burn ruins this ingredient and makes it turn mushy.
How To Extend The Shelf Life Of Asparagus
Many people say that if you store asparagus in a glass jar filled with a little bit of water, it helps keep them moisturized, plump, and fresh. You should still store the jar inside the fridge. Remember to trim the stems so they can absorb the water.
This way, as I’ve mentioned, the spears will last about 10 days.
You can use this hack if you know you aren’t going to use the asparagus within the next 3 days.