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What's the best way to wash asparagus?

I served some disappointingly sandy asparagus a couple of days ago and would love to avoid a repeat of this scenario. Does anyone have any tricks to share? My strategy was just washing the spears thoroughly under running water...clearly not good enough.

Suzanne is the Editor-in-Chief of Food52.

asked about 2 months ago

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11 answers 1030 views
Girlfromipanema
added about 2 months ago

Just as I do with sandy/dirty greens, I fill a clean sink/large bowl with water- I then put the asparagus in and swish them around. The sand sinks to the bottom- just lift the asparagus out and leave the sand behind. For especially sandy asparagus you can do this process twice with a clean change of water.

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HalfPint
HalfPint

HalfPint is a trusted home cook.

added about 2 months ago

I like to swish vegetables gently in a large bowl of water or fill up the sink. Submerge asparagus in water, let it soak for a few minutes (this lets the water soften any dried caked-on dirt/sand, swish around gently to dislodge the grit. Then scoop the asparagus out of the water and into a colander. I like to check the first wash water to gauge how much dirt/sand have collected at the bottom. If there's a bit, I repeat the process again. This takes a few minutes more than running under water but it's more thorough and gentle. This is how mother washes her produce.

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cv
cv
added about 2 months ago

Like the others here, I dunk my asparagus in a large bowl/sink of water and examine the water closely or just touch the bottom of the recipient to feel if there is any grit since sand is often hard to see.

Careful washing of asparagus is particularly important since it is grown in sandy soils.

I prefer medium thick asparagus (1/2" diameter at the cut part of the stalk) so I typically end up peeling the bottom 25% of the asparagus. This also reduces the chances of having any sand. Depending on if I feel any sand, I might give the stalks a quick spray.

I almost always boil my asparagus which further encourages the sand to drop to the bottom of the water. I shock the boiled stalks in an ice water bath, yet another way to shed more sand.

As I am usually washing several kinds of produce at the same time, I will usually do asparagus first since it is more sandy than muddy. Depending on what else I am preparing, I often wash several other things first (like beans and peas which are usually pretty clean) and other things after asparagus (like leafy greens which are often quite muddy).

As a native Californian, you are probably aware of the benefits of having some sort of strategy when using precious tap water in the kitchen.

Best of luck.

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DPJ
DPJ
added about 2 months ago

Our fabulous local asparagus grower, Edgar Farms near Innisfail, Alberta, Canada recommends the following:

Cooking With Asparagus
Posted by Edgar_Farms with No Comments
Cleaning
Asparagus is picked as it emerges from the soil. When rain is eminent, the little side leaves open to catch moisture. If the rain is driving, sand will splash up the spears and get caught behind these leaves. We cold water wash all of the asparagus after picking but please check your asparagus for sand by peeling off a few leaves. If you find any sand, soak in very warm water for 10 – 15 minutes. This allows the leaves and heads to relax. Flush the sand out with clean warm water. If you are storing the asparagus after cleaning, chill in cold water before refrigerating.

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SMSF
SMSF

SMSF is a trusted home cook.

added about 2 months ago

Very interesting, thank you for sharing this info from your local grower, DPJ.

Here in California the rains are normally well past by the time asparagus season starts, so sandy asparagus is not the norm. But now I will check and know what to do should I come across this problem!

cv
cv
added about 2 months ago

Here in Northern California, the asparagus season starts around the last week of March and continues about 6-8 weeks. It's still raining in late March-early April here in NorCal.

Farmers will irrigate anyhow if the sky doesn't produce enough precipitation; the farming industry uses far more water than any other group, including all residential use.

The folks from my favorite asparagus farm (Zuckerman's in Stockton) warned me that this year's season would be short and indeed they stopped a couple of weeks ago.

Trust me, just because it's not rainy doesn't mean that sandy/mud/dirt stops being a problem. I have my own vegetable garden and I assure you that produce can get sandy/muddy/dirty regardless of whether your water comes from the sky or comes from a hose.

creamtea
creamtea

Lisanne is a trusted home cook.

added about 2 months ago

I soak/wash leafy and other green produce in lukewarm rather than cold water to relax them and release grit (and/or bugs). I soak a couple of times if necessary. I use a salad spinner so that I can easily pull out the produce using the strainer and check the water that's left behind in the bowl. For sandy produce I tilt out of the water slowly so the sand settles in the bottom and I can feel it with my fingers , then I repeat the process till the water is clear.

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Suzanne D'Amato
Suzanne D'Amato

Suzanne is the Editor-in-Chief of Food52.

added about 2 months ago

Thank you for all of these suggestions—totally appreciate them and will give them a try.

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Liz B
added about 2 months ago

Wow I must get really clean asparagus - other than a really quick rinse under the tap occasionally, I've never washed asparagus.

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BerryBaby
BerryBaby

BerryBaby is trusted source on General Cooking

added about 2 months ago

Me too! Has never been an issue.
Leeks, yes. Asparagus, no.

cv
cv
added about 2 months ago

Like all produce, asparagus is grown by different farmers and processed by different people as well. Some may be doing a more thorough job in cleaning their produce after it has been picked.

Perhaps an even bigger factor is where you buy your asparagus.

I buy almost all of my produce at the local farmers market. If you buy most of your produce at a grocery store, chances are that the grocer will be regularly spraying their produce to maintain freshness.

The produce at my town's farmers market comes straight from the vendor's packing warehouses and no one sprays/mists their produce at the farmers market so the produce often has more dirt/mud/sand/debris.

Worse when I shop at farmers market I often put different produce in the same bag just to cut down on plastic bag use. This means a bunch of asparagus may ride home in the same bag as some muddy lettuce or spinach, or potatoes may end up in a bag of green beans.

Same with the stuff I pick from my own garden.

For this reason alone I find myself assiduously washing produce.

Even if produce looks clean, I know what sort of critters like to dine on my own crops: birds, rodents, various bugs, gastropods, etc.

Best to be thoughtful and deliberate about cleaning produce.