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May 15, 2011 11:14 AM

Smelly asparagus?

On Wednesday, I bought some asparagus at Whole Foods. It looked fine, but when I got it home, I noticed a really strong fishy smell coming from it. I washed it, examined it, it still looked fine, so I went ahead and used half of it in a pasta (it tasted OK).

But today I wanted to use the rest in a frittata and that fishy smell is really making me think I should just pitch it, instead. It still LOOKS just fine, but smells gross.

Am I missing something? Does asparagus normally have a fishy smell or does that indicate that it's rotten? I don't mind throwing it away, but I want to avoid throwing away perfectly good food, if this is normal or something.

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  1. Asparagus, even fresh asparagus, has an off odor normally. Without getting too graphic, it also has the same effect on your urine for that reason. If the tips are tight and firm, then it's fine. I just rinse the bunch under cold running water for a few seconds then stand it up in a container with about 2 inches of water.

    1. Asparagus contains various volatile organic compounds, two of which are methanethiol and
      dimethyl sulfide. Both of those compounds can cause a very pungent -- sometimes "fishy" odor -- in asparagus, and once metabolized can create the same effect on urine for those people with a certain gene called the autosomal.

      Fresh young asparagus have a higher concentration of these compounds.

      So more likely than not you got a bunch of asparagus that was quite young.

      The asparagus you had was fine, just very very young.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Well there ya go. I buy only fresh young asparagus because I prefer the thinner spears. Thanks.

        1. re: The Drama Queen

          The size of the spears usually has no relationship to their age -- some grow big, some not, but all are harvested when they mature. Same with artichokes. And the thin ones are often tougher since they have a higher skin to flesh ratio.

          1. re: rjbh20

            Re skin to flesh, that has always been my thought. I never buy the thin ones for that reason.

      2. Thanks for the help! I'm glad I didn't throw it all away - it made a delicious frittata, along with some feta and caramelized onions!

        1. The cause of the strange odor in urine after eating asparagus is the metabolic by-product oxalic acid, which is excreted in the urine. While the odor is unpleasant, the chemical is harmless.

          1 Reply