The Genius Way to Stop Wasting Asparagus

June 10, 2015

Every week—often with your help—Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: How to eat the whole asparagus, from tip to tail.

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Whether you're a snapper or a slicer, lopping off the ends of a bunch of asparagus can feel almost as senseless as throwing away your own arm. Good asparagus is expensive and fleeting, so why do we waste so much of it? Do we have to? 

I would wager that, despite our guilt, we throw away up to a third of the asparagus we buy—because fighting through a segment that's chewy or stringy would be worse. Harold McGee says we can shave the tougher ends into thin coins, but that only gets us so far. All the way to that dry scar at the end, asparagus still has something to offer, even if it's not texture or looks.


Consider soup. To make her chilled asparagus and almond soup, Annie Wayte—the author of Keep it Seasonal and chef at White Hart in the Berkshires—takes all the untapped asparagi ends and turns them into a quick vegetable stock.

More: Did you know we have a whole column about cooking with scraps? We do.


By adding the stock to a puréed asparagus soup, she gets the bright grassiness that comes with quickly cooking them, but a richer, earthier layer too. Suddenly, the least wasteful course of action is also the most flavorful (without a lot of extra trouble).


This is a well-constructed nose-to-tail recipe, in which Wayte uses the entirety of 2 bunches of asparagus in one complete dish, but no matter what you're doing with the rest of your bunches, you can and should simmer the ends. "Instead of a soup," Wayte told me, "you can use the same broth in a risotto or for the base of a pasta sauce." Braised fish or simmered grains or green juices might be more good ends for your ends.

And since we're thinking about waste, this recipe calls for the light belly section of a leek and half a garlic clove—you know where the remains can go. I think Wayte would approve.

Annie Wayte's Chilled Asparagus and Almond Soup

Adapted slightly from Annie Wayte and White Hart

Serves 4

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed (trimmings reserved), and coarsely chopped
Sea salt
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek (white part only, green part reserved), sliced
1/2 clove garlic or 1 bulb spring garlic, trimmed
2 ounces blanched almonds (1/2 cup slivered)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Squeeze of lemon juice

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

The Genius Recipes cookbook is finally here—and a New York Times Best Seller! The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites—all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It's on shelves now, or you can order your copy here.

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Bob
  • John
  • stirfrysuperfly
  • Irene Van Nostrand
    Irene Van Nostrand
  • vivavalencia
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Bob April 21, 2016
It's a great idea.
John December 20, 2015
Yes I have to admit that it is an fantastic idea.
stirfrysuperfly June 17, 2015
If you are going to blend and sieve anyways, why not just throw the woody stalks into the actual soup?
Kristen M. June 17, 2015
I've tried that before and it can be pretty brutal on blenders, though it might be worth a try if you have the powerful, high-speed kind.
stirfrysuperfly June 17, 2015
Good point. I have a hand held stick blender that I like to use. Would probably have to simmer it for a long time to soften those stalks.
Irene V. June 14, 2015
i typically make 'stock' with the remaining asparagus; boiling it in water. i use the stock when boiling pasta or in recipes that call for water for extra flavor. looking forward to trying something different and making this soup!
vivavalencia June 13, 2015
I'm allergic to almonds but this soup sounds marvelous! Can you recommend a substitute?
Kristen M. June 13, 2015
Are you allergic to other nuts? If not, you might try cashews or walnuts or pecans, all of which are commonly used to make nut milks and would be nice with the asparagus. Otherwise, adding some cubed potato and simmering till soft would make a great, nicely-flavored substitute thickener.
vivavalencia June 13, 2015
I've developed an allergy to tree nuts in the past few years. Almonds and hazelnuts seem to bother me the most. One or two don't affect me too badly, but I try to avoid all tree nuts when possible. Potato sounds like a lovely substitute, thanks for the suggestion!
Alexandra S. June 10, 2015
So, a friend up here in Schenectady took us foraging for asparagus last weekend. Unfortunately, we were a little too late — the stalks were about as tall as I am and the ends a little woody, but the taste of the stalks, especially the most tender portions, was still great! Going to try this with my remaining stash. Can't wait!
Kristen M. June 13, 2015
Ali, I hope you took pictures of this monster asparagus! And I, of course, hope you like the soup too.
Alexandra S. June 14, 2015
I can't believe this, but I didn't! But, apparently, there is more asparagus, so we are going to revisit the spot soon. I promise to take pictures!