Asparagus is available year-round and is often found alongside steaks, chicken, meatloaf or fish as a dependable side dish. The bright green spears are tender and full of flavor, but it is the bottom part of the stalks that creates confusion. The bottoms are usually woody and fibrous and while it is common practice to break them off and throw them away, you can use them.
Eating the Bottoms
Many people just don't see the point in throwing away so much perfectly good food, so they will eat the bottoms right along with the rest of the asparagus. If you are on this list but you find the bottoms uncomfortably stringy, just take a couple precautions to balance the tops and bottoms. You can bend each stalk in the middle and let them break naturally, or line them up and cut them with a knife where they get woody. Then, boil the bottoms for five or 10 minutes before you cook the tops. You can also peel off the outer layer of the bottoms with a vegetable peeler to eliminate some of the stringiness, before you cook them.
The Bottoms as Flavoring
If you aren't interested in eating the asparagus bottoms, but you still want to use them, they make an ideal flavoring for soups. You can use them along with carrots, onions, celery, garlic, broccoli and seasonings to create a home made vegetable stock. You could also cut the asparagus bottoms to make cream of asparagus soup. Just cut them into smaller, 1/4-inch pieces and simmer them in broth or water until they are tender and puree them, along with the other ingredients.
Asparagus Cooking Techniques
If you choose to remove the bottoms of the asparagus stalks and just eat the tops, there are a handful of ways to cook them that will yield tasty results. Boil or steam asparagus for 3 to 5 minutes and then add butter or the sauce of your choice to create a memorable side dish. Roasting the asparagus in a hot, 450 degree Fahrenheit oven or grilling them over medium-high heat creates browning that adds a lot of flavor. You can also eat your asparagus raw in salads, if you don't want to cook it. Remove the bottoms for this preparation, and shave strips off the rest of the stalk with a vegetable peeler so they aren't too fibrous.
Selection and Storage
Look for asparagus that has perky looking tips that are closed up tight and bottoms that are firm to the touch and straight. If any part of the stalk looks limp or lifeless, leave it at the store and move on to another bunch. Try to eat your asparagus as soon as possible, but if you have to store them wrap the whole stalks in a damp paper towel and then put them in a perforated plastic bag in your fridge. If you have broken off the bottoms, stand up the tops in a glass of water like they were flowers and set them in the fridge. Cover the tips loosely with a plastic bag to prevent the water evaporating.
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