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 raw 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 stalks in soups or stews, where their lack of texture and flavor won’t be as noticeable as fresh vegetables by, 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. For 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 darker green color will just become dull. Usually, dull green asparagus stalks are 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 stalks also lose their 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 and asparagus tips 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 stalks.
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 imagine how foul it smells!
But, from my experience, unlike most rotting rotten 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 foul 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.
However, when stored properly 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 cook or 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.
To maximize its freshness, allow the cooked asparagus to cool completely before placing it in an airtight container or wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap. Store it in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C).
When reheating cooked asparagus, it is best to do so gently to avoid overcooking and loss of texture. You can reheat it in a microwave, steam it briefly, or even enjoy it cold in salads or as a side dish.
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 with the rubber band in a damp or wet paper towel. Make sure they are covered well. Then, place the bunch inside a plastic bag, zip-lock bag, or airtight container.
Store asparagus upright inside the refrigerator 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 boiling water makes it turn mushy.
Can You Freeze Asparagus?
Yes, you can freeze asparagus. Unlike freezing other fresh veggies, you should blanch the asparagus for 2-3 minutes, then transfer it to an ice bath to cool. Freezing asparagus without blanching them results in freezer burn that will damage them.
After the ice water bath, dry the asparagus, pack it in a freezer bag or plastic bag and into an airtight container, and remove as much air as possible to take out excess moisture. Store asparagus in the freezer for 8-12 months. Freezing asparagus preserves its freshness for later use in recipes.
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.
How To Choose The Best Asparagus Bunch
It’s always a good idea to know how to pick asparagus bunch with the best quality to ensure you will enjoy them for longer. Here are the best tips I personally use when I shop for fresh veggies, including asparagus.
- Appearance: Look for asparagus with firm, straight spears. Avoid any bunches with wilted or slimy spears, as they indicate older or less fresh asparagus.
- Color: The color of asparagus can vary from pale green to dark green or purple, depending on the variety. Choose asparagus with vibrant, bright green spears and uniform coloring throughout the bunch.
- Thickness: Asparagus spears come in different thicknesses. Large stalks tend to be more mature and have a stronger flavor, while thinner spears are generally more tender. Choose the thickness that suits your preference or the specific recipe you have in mind.
- Tips: Examine the tips of the asparagus spears. The best bunch should be tightly closed and compact, without any signs of flowering or going to seed. Avoid bunches with open or feathery tips, as this indicates older asparagus.
- Texture: Gently squeeze the asparagus spears. They should feel firm and not limp. A slight snap when you bend the ends is a good sign of freshness.
- Smell: Give the asparagus a quick sniff. Fresh asparagus should have a pleasant, earthy aroma. If it smells off or unpleasant, it may not be fresh.
What To Do With Old Asparagus
You may have old asparagus spears sitting in your refrigerator, especially during asparagus season, and you’re wondering what to do with them. The last thing you want to do is to throw food! So, in this section, I will give you two asparagus recipes to enjoy asparagus as long as they do not show any signs of spoilage.
Roasted Asparagus Soup
Roasted asparagus soup is one of the best-tasting recipes that you can do with both fresh and old asparagus spears.
This comforting soup begins with old asparagus that is roasted to perfection, bringing out its natural flavors. The roasted asparagus is then combined with sautéed onions, garlic, and a flavorful broth.
After simmering and blending to a smooth consistency, a touch of richness can be added with some optional heavy cream. After only 30 minutes of cooking, you will have a delicious and velvety soup that showcases the earthy and delicate taste of asparagus.
Grilled Asparagus Salad
Grilled asparagus salad is a good way to enjoy the health benefits of all the ingredients in this recipe. With tomatoes, walnuts, mixed salad greens, and a sauce made with honey, balsamic vinegar, and cheese, you will surely love this way to use your days-old asparagus spears.
This vibrant salad contains the natural flavors of old asparagus through grilling. You can lightly char the asparagus stalks to enhance their taste and texture, giving them a delightful smokiness.
Mixed salad greens serve as a fresh base, while cherry tomatoes add a burst of sweetness. To add creaminess to the salad, you can choose from crumbled goat cheese, feta cheese, parmesan cheese, and even cheddar cheese, and the optional crunch of chopped walnuts.
Drizzled with a tangy balsamic dressing, this grilled asparagus salad is a perfect balance of flavors and textures, making it a refreshing and satisfying dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Eat Asparagus Raw?
Yes, you can certainly try to enjoy raw asparagus. However, before doing so, make sure that you have a top-quality and clean bunch to avoid any contamination. It’s always best to blanch them to soften and kill microbes.
Can You Eat Spoiled Asparagus?
You should never eat anything spoiled, including veggies. Spoiled foods grow mold that may cause harmful diseases.