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Making use of asparagus – stalks and all

For many Kiwis the first asparagus spears in the supermarket are a sign that summer is just around the corner.

Asparagus is a delicate vegetable that should be used within a couple of days of buying it. Store it in the fridge – either stand the spears in a jar or glass with a couple of centimeters of water in the bottom or wrap a wet paper towel around the bottom of the stalks. Be careful not to damage the tips.

If the asparagus goes limp, soak it in cold water to perk it up a bit.

Asparagus have tough woody ends that aren’t very appetising if they’re not cooked properly. While you can easily snap off the ends, it can often result in almost a quarter of the spear going to waste.

So what should you do?

If you are going to use the stalks in another dish, then you can snap them off using your hands.

Alternatively, you can trim the very ends of the spears and then use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer skin. If the spears are thin, they should not need to be peeled.

What to do with the stalks:

While the bottoms of the stalks are tougher than the rest of the spear there are still things you can do with them.

– Slice them thinly and use them in a stir-fry or salad. If they are thick stalks, peel them.

– Use them in a soup or to flavour a stock.

– If pickling is your thing, try adding them next time you pickle vegetables.

– If you’re not going to eat them, throw them into your compost or bokashi.


Asparagus Stalk Pesto

Turn the woody ends of your asparagus spears into this easy asparagus stalk pesto. Use the pesto as a dip, spread, salad dressing or pasta sauce.


1 ½ cups (approximately) asparagus ends (the woody bottom parts of the spear that you might usually throw away)

1 cup loosely packed herbs (basil and mint work well)

1/3 cup walnuts or other nuts

Zest and juice of one small lemon

¼ cup olive oil

Salt, to taste

Pepper (optional)



  1. Trim the ends of the stalks then cook the asparagus stalks until they are tender – you can do this in the microwave or by boiling them. Allow them to cool once cooked.
  2. Place the asparagus in a food processor with the herbs, walnuts, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil.
  3. Blend until smooth.
  4. Season to taste. Serve with crudités, crackers or toasted bread.


Tip: You can cook the stalks and then freeze until you have enough to make the dip.