HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Asparagus - Oh, snap!

I have asparagus fever.

I was surfing the web for asparagus info after reading this thread on Home Cooking

14 Days of Asparagus

I found this article by Harold McGee that is anti-snapping in terms of trimming. It also has a lot of other good general asparagus info, some of which I never knew

Anyway, I stopped snapping years ago because I buy various sizes from super-thin to jumbo. It was the thin asparagus that did me in. It was too much work for me to snap all those spears.

On the other end, with jumbo I find there is too much waste. Snapping works best on medium spears and even then there's a lot of error.

McGee writes "I’ve been a spear-snapper too, but I’m regularly annoyed by fibrous spears among the tender ones, and I have wondered just how reliable snapping is. Over the course of a few weeks, I snapped a total of 130 spears, then steamed them and bit into the wide end. About a third were unpleasantly stringy"

I have to disagree about his method of slicing though ... cutting 6 or 7 inches from the tip.

I cut above the white area. If it is still woody, you can tell by sight and the way it feels when cut ... I cut a bit more. If there is no white area, I just cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the bottom for good measure.

As to the trimmed part, McGee goes through a lot more trouble than I could stand. He cuts them into super thin rounds because then the fiberous part isn't noticible. Well, maybe ... but from a person who is too lazy to snap lots of thin spears, micro-slicing the ends isn't going to happen.

Unfortunately, I've been throwing the ends away. I'm not the type of person to make stock often. However, if you look at the link with recipes ... 14 Days of asparagus ... I found a link in there for artichoke butter which uses the stems ... I might give that a try the next time I buy some asparagus.

As to people who peal the ends ... I never got that. It seems like a lot of work and the end is still stringy.

So are you a snapper, a peeler or a slicer?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've recently begun to experiment with asparagus, and so far, I've only used the peeled method as suggested by Julia Child. It was quite a pain for those thin spears, but it works well for the thick ones.

    EDIT: Peeling is quite a lot of work, but it's worked for me so far. The rationale is that the tough portions are in the outer layers, so peeling removes them. It's also more economical in that you remove a relatively thin layer on each spear, as opposed to a good chunk. If you find that peeling still leaves tough bits near the end, then you need to peel deeper at the butt. I will try other methods too. Certainly slicing is the easiest way when you're in a rush. I think I will try that method next--learn how to feel out the tough portions.

    1. I never snap-find it silly really. It only takes a little experience with prepping and cooking asparagus to get a feel for where you should cut it.
      I line the asparagus up and in one slice, I'm done.

      1. Slicer, as in cut off the ends, while they're still tied in a bundle, and no peeling, just silly, certainly for the skinny ones. Years of asparagus prepping and eating has brought me to the point of not wanting to fool around with them any longer.

        I cut at the point where the white meets the green, where the stalk starts to look tender, about 6-7 inches down from the spear tip. I've found that by snaping, you're losing some of the edible part of the spear. I have peeled the fat stalks, but I prefer not to buy that size; i like the skinny ones.

        The stalks make a good base for soup, especially, duh, cream of asparagus, but I've never bothered using them for much else.

        1. I snap but I always munch on the snapped ends. I find the asparagus still edible.

          Rworange, how does one eat Asparagus butter?

          3 Replies
          1. re: pdxgastro

            According to the recipe "Serve chilled with freshly baked wheat or whole grain bread."
            It might be nice as a dollop on fish or meat.

            I found a few other asparagus butter recipes and put them here

            One is asparagus butter with thyme. The other is tea sandwiches with asparagus butter which look pretty.

            I found a recipe for asparagus mixed into cream cheese which would be nice on a bagel. Glad I have a few ideas to try out instead of tossing the bottoms.

            1. re: rworange

              A monkey dish is a small, generally round, but not necessarily, side dish for serving sides of vegetables or other condiments, sauces, dressings, etc, in restaurants. These dishes hold about a half cup serving. I can't tell you how many times, when I worked professionally, I had someone in the kitchen say, "Hand me a monkey dish, please."

              The butter sounds delicious, btw. I would use real garlic also.

            2. re: pdxgastro

              YES! So do I. I enjoy snacking on the snapped ends whilst snapping the rest of the asparagus. Not that much trouble, watch something on TV while you're doing it or something.

              I think this is like the gardeners who hand-water their yards vs the drip system proponents- I'm one of the former (in case you hadn't guessed).

              1. I'm a snapper and, for all but the thinnest stalks, also a peeler. I peel the entire stalk after snapping the end off.

                1. Stupidly, I'm a snapper EVEN THOUGH I, myself, am responsible for the tough ends, AFTER I go out and CUT too deeply down the stalk, from the bed, in the first place. ;-D

                  1. I usually cut, but after snapping one or two for approximate location. Admittedly, cutting probably wastes more in the long run, due to stalk by stalk variation.

                    Regarding peeling: I find that peeling removes way more of the asparagus than seems necessary, or economically sound, even if I use a light touch. Is there a secret to proper peeling?

                    1. I slice and peel. I've found that if I slice the bottom inch or so off the stalk, and then peel the lower 2-3 inches with my handy-dandy "spargelschaler" (see photo -- I brought a couple of them home from my last trip to Germany), I waste very little, and it's all very tender, even the "jumbo" stalks.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: CindyJ

                        As a dedicated snap and peeler that spargelschale loked very interesting but then I saw a picture showing it in operation and it works much like my regular OXXO peeler. However I also stumbled on this spargelschale at Amazon.de. Be sure to watch the video.

                        1. re: mexivilla

                          That video... I kept wondering why that woman had such a BIG smile on her face!

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            I have to show this to my SO. He hates white asparagus and kept accidentally ordering it when we were in Germany. Her crazed grin will remind him of his unfortunate experiences.

                      2. i snap... when i give it a wide range of leeway i find it has generally worked quite well and would take off a bit more than i might when cutting due to frugality. when they're large stalks (which i don't buy anymore) i'll go back and evaluate them to decide if i want to cut more off. it takes more time.... but part of the joy of cooking for me is handling the food. it's so incredibly satisfying to hear that sharp 'snap!' when working with asparagus. it's part of the joy of cooking that particular vegetable for me.

                        speaking of asparagus frugality, i was watching my mother prep asparagus one day and she insisted on snapping. she might as well have just cut them because she was routinely placing her thumbs an inch and a half from the bottom with only millimetres of space between, essentially forcing it to snap where she wanted it to. she wouldn't accept my explanation as to how she was subverting the natural snap line... ah well!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                          Curious as to why you don't buy "large stalks anymore." In my asparagus bed, we get all sizes simultaneously, but I've noticed that the more mature (and healthy) my bed becomes, the fatter the stalks, and the more of them, in general. There's no discernible difference, at all, as to how FAST they grow vs. their width, however: the fat spears are just as tender and fresh as the skinny.

                          1. re: Beckyleach

                            my reasoning is completely arbitrary. i see asparagus as a dainty food and so i prefer it to be in a manageable size for either easy nibbling when holding it in the hand or placing on the fork. i also like dainty and light cutlery. it goes against what i know about the quality of most cutlery but i really enjoy the dexterity it affords me.

                            1. re: Beckyleach

                              Our asparagus bed behaved just like yours. Fresh asparagus never needs to be peeled, in my opinion. Old (that is, not relatively newly picked, as in having to be transported long distances by a truck that may not have been refrigerated) asparagus may be a different story. Where I live (in central CA) the asparagus comes to the market nicely fresh. That may not be the case everywhere, though.

                          2. Just call me Lester. I neither snip nor snap. I cherish my garden asparagus so much I just bite and eat it raw!!!