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It’s a damn shame if you have to throw any food in the trash, but nothing quite hurts the soul like wasted asparagus. Sizeable, delicious, and versatile, asparagus is one of the most exquisitely balanced vegetables on the planet, nutritionally speaking.
It’s brimming with potassium, fiber, folic acid, thiamin, and vitamins A, C, and B6. Throwing even a single spear in the trash is a great way to make a farmer cry, especially if it’s organically cultivated, but if it could be frozen, it would change everything.
Can You Freeze Asparagus?
It’s good news. There’s a knack to it, but you can definitely freeze asparagus, Hurrah! You may not have noticed, but many stores sell it pre-frozen in bags, so it’s well within the realms of reality, and if businesses can do it, so can you!
Not only is freezing asparagus possible, it’s actually the absolute best way to preserve it, as when asparagus is canned, it tends to end up a little…mushy.
The asparagus most suited for dealing with the sub-zero climate in your freezer features thick, juicy stalks no thinner than, say, a fountain pen. It should be purchased when in season and sourced locally.
The reason for this is that out of season asparagus has been transported internationally, so it won’t be anywhere near as fresh or flavorsome. As the freezing process makes food blander as it is, you need asparagus that’s exploding with flavor.
Before you start the freezing process, you should first prepare your asparagus. Instead of using a knife, bend your asparagus until the earthy root end snaps off. The idea is that the asparagus snaps exactly at the point where it becomes tender enough to eat.
If you cut it with a knife, you may lose some of the tender stem or include some of the tough root section.
How to Freeze Asparagus
Besides onions and peppers, which can be frozen raw, all vegetables need to be blanched before they make their chilly pilgrimage, so that should be your first step.
To blanch your asparagus, set a pan of water to heat while you wash your spears. When the water starts to boil, add a couple of pinches of salt, then add your asparagus. If they have stalks of varying sizes, place the thicker ones in first and blanch for around four minutes.
Medium-sized spears will be fine after three minutes, and smaller spears will need only around two minutes. Make sure you’re timing this process as precision is key. As your asparagus blanches, it’s time to prepare a container of ice water.
Once they’ve done their time in the hot water, you can drain your spears and submerge them immediately in the ice water to stop them overcooking. Remove them, drain them again, and you’re done! You’ve just blanched your asparagus.
Drying Your Asparagus
Before you start portioning up your asparagus for the long cold sleep, it’s essential that they’re bone dry. Residual moisture will crystalize and freeze burn your asparagus, causing it to dry up and shrivel.
If you’ve got a salad spinner, you can use this to speed up the drying process, otherwise, you’ll just have to wait.
Freezing Your Asparagus
Your first port of call is to line a freezer-friendly tray with baking parchment. Spread your spears out on the parchment paper in a single layer so that none of them are touching, cover them with another sheet of parchment, then flash freeze them for around 2-3 hours.
When they’ve spent enough time in their wintry confinement, you’re clear to remove them and repackage them in a freezer-safe container or sealable freezer bag.
Make sure there’s as little air as possible in their bags, and when your asparagus spears are all packed up and ready to go back in the freezer, write the date on a sticky label and press it on the outside of the freezer bag.
Now all you have to do is place them in your freezer, and it’s mission accomplished!
How to Defrost Asparagus
If your asparagus is rather thin, you could even throw it straight into the pot to cook up with the rest of your ingredients. If you’ve got a mixture of spear dimensions, you can roast them straight out of the freezer with a drizzle of oil and any herbs or spices you fancy.
If you’re preparing for a meal rather than actually cooking one, you should follow the same rules you do when defrosting meat. Keep it covered, place it in your fridge on a plate, and leave it either overnight, or for around 6-8 hours.
The slower a food defrosts, the better its flavor and texture hold up.
If you’re in a rush and throwing it straight into the oven or pot isn’t an option, you can fast track the process using your microwave.
You’ll need to place them in a covered microwavable container with two tablespoons of water, then cook them on full power for around 2-3 ½ minutes, depending on their girth, turn them, then cook them for another 2-3 ½ minutes.
Factors to Consider Before Freezing Your Asparagus
- Having to blanch food before freezing it can be a little bit irritating, especially if you’re short on time, but it’s worth it. When you freeze raw asparagus, it loses its structural integrity and the beautiful crispness it’s famous for. It becomes rubbery, loses flavor, and may even start to discolor.
- Fresh asparagus can be safely frozen for up to a year, so you’ve got plenty of time to get through it all, but the sooner you eat it, the better the texture and flavor will be. For best results, try to eat it within 3-4 months.
- While asparagus is perfectly safe to freeze, it comes out a lesser vegetable than it went in. There’s nothing you can do about this. Freezing food always siphons away a bit of the magic. It’s the price we pay for extending its life. So, it may be worth incorporating your thawed asparagus into meals such as stews, stir-fries, curries, and broths, rather than using it as a focal point.
- Once thawed, you should consume your asparagus within three days. Don’t attempt to refreeze it. In fact, you shouldn’t refreeze any food because the constant exposure to extreme temperatures starts to break them down, ruining flavor, texture, and color.
There you have it, folks. Now you can freeze asparagus with gusto.
Lasting as long as a year in the freezer, you can stock up on asparagus when it’s in season locally and freeze it in preparation for three seasons without access to fresh produce.