Asparagus is a versatile, delicious vegetable that goes well with many foods.
However, it is one of the most perishable vegetables, and hard to find out of season.
For the few short weeks that asparagus is at its peak, it’s one of the most popular vegetables in the world.
But can you make it last for longer?
Can You Freeze Asparagus?
You can freeze asparagus, and it is the best way to keep it fresh, green, and crispy for up to one year.
Asparagus needs to be blanched before freezing, to preserve the color and texture.
Without blanching, frozen asparagus will be duller in color and flavor, and won’t have a crisp texture.
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How to Freeze Asparagus
For the best-frozen asparagus, start with the very freshest asparagus you can get, and process it as soon as possible.
The better the quality it is when you begin, the more delicious it will be when it’s thawed, and asparagus is particularly prone to breaking down quickly when exposed to air.
Thicker (but still tender) asparagus spears tend to keep better than thin ones.
In order to freeze asparagus:
- Trim the tough bottom of the stems off of your fresh asparagus spears. You can peel these and freeze them as well, for later use in asparagus soup, or simply discard them. You can leave the tender spears whole, or cut them into pieces that are 1-2 inches long.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.
- To blanch the asparagus, add up to one pound of fresh asparagus spears at a time to the boiling water. Let them cook for 2-5 minutes, until bright green and tender, depending on how thick your asparagus is.
- To steam the asparagus, place a steaming basket over your boiling water. Place the asparagus in the steaming basket and let it steam, covered, for 3-6 minutes, until bright green and tender, depending on how thick your asparagus is.
- With either method, once the cooking or steaming time is up, immerse the asparagus in a large bowl of ice-cold water to stop the cooking. Leave them in the cold water for the same amount of time as you cooked them.
- Drain the asparagus from the cold water, and then lay it on a clean towel to remove excess water.
- For better separation after freezing, spread the blanched asparagus spears on a cookie sheet and freeze them for up to 2 hours before placing them in freezer bags for longer storage. If you place the drained asparagus spears directly into freezer bags and freeze them, they will freeze into a clump and be difficult to separate.
Asparagus is a particularly good candidate for vacuum-sealing since it breaks down quickly in the presence of air.
If you can’t vacuum seal your frozen asparagus, use a freezer bag and squeeze as much air out as possible.
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How to Use Frozen Asparagus
Frozen asparagus should be used frozen, and not thawed or defrosted first.
Simply use the frozen spears the same way you would use fresh ones.
You may need to extend cooking times slightly to make up for the temperature difference when using frozen asparagus.
Can you freeze asparagus without blanching it first?
You can simply freeze asparagus without blanching it, but asparagus is one of the most perishable vegetables, and its enzymes will continue to degrade it over time.
If you freeze un-blanched asparagus, it will lose color, flavor, and texture in the freezer, and not be as appealing or flavorful when you are ready to use it.
How long does asparagus last in the freezer?
If asparagus is properly blanched or steamed, and stored in an air-tight container in a freezer at 0°F, it will be fresh, green, and tasty for 8-12 months.
If kept constantly frozen, it should remain safe to eat for much longer than that, but will begin to lose color and flavor after a year.
Is frozen asparagus as good as fresh?
The answer is yes and no. Very fresh, properly frozen asparagus is as good as fresh.
But asparagus is a very perishable vegetable, prone to damage from oxidation and over-ripening from its own enzymes.
If you buy pre-frozen asparagus from the grocery store, it is usually more delicious than freezing it on your own, because frozen food companies use farm-fresh produce and rapid freezing methods that prevent deterioration.
When buying your own fresh asparagus in a grocery store, it can be difficult to know how long ago it was packed, how far it has been transported, and if it’s been kept in optimal conditions the whole time.
If you buy farm-fresh asparagus, and then trim, blanch, freeze, and store it properly right away, you can preserve the quality and flavor and it’s just as good as fresh.
For freezing at home, thicker asparagus spears tend to maintain their quality for longer, and white asparagus is the most durable of all.
How long do you blanch asparagus?
Very thin, tender spears of asparagus will be blanched in about 2 minutes.
The thicker the spears are, the longer they need to be blanched, so it may take 2-5 minutes.
Check the asparagus at 2 minutes – it is done when it is vivid green in color, and slightly tender when you poke it with a knife.
Asparagus is a delicious vegetable, and easy to freeze at home so you can enjoy it all year long, not just for the few weeks when it is in season.