Last Updated on March 2, 2023 by Practical Cooks
Asparagus is one of the most popular and favorite greens and has a sweet, bitter taste. Cooking it can be tricky at times, and it may leave you wondering why my asparagus is bitter after cooking it and what can I do about it?
Asparagus has a high concentration of asparagusic acid, which makes it bitter. The bitterness from the acid is set off when it is over or undercooked. To reduce the irritation of asparagus, soak it in water before cooking.
We will go into detail concerning this issue, but we have more treats for you as you continue reading. There are special tips to offer and common questions answered toward the end.
Reasons for the Bitterness in Asparagus
Naturally, the compound of asparagusic acid leaves a bitter taste in asparagus. It is also the culprit of what is known as asparagus urine, which leaves an odor on the vegetables. As asparagus digests in the body, different sulfur compounds lead to bitterness and odor.
When asparagus is overcooked, it will turn to mush and release more compounds that cause the issues. Undercooked asparagus doesn’t give the compounds enough time to break down, leaving the bitter taste.
Perfectly cooked asparagus will bring out the sweetness which overrides the bitterness. It will hint at a bitter taste, but it will not be as bad.
If the asparagus is old, it will have a bitter taste. As age takes control, the sugars turn to starch. Picking the asparagus too early will also leave it bitter. The last reason may be due to the soil being high in minerals. The bitter taste is acquired, and some prefer bitterness to sweetness.
Removing the Bitter Flavor in Asparagus
There are different ways to remove the bitter flavor in asparagus. The first way is to soak the asparagus in cold water for a few minutes before cooking it. The second method would be to shock it in ice water after boiling it for about two minutes. It works, but it may also lose nutrients and flavor in the process.
The last way is the most natural: squeeze lemon juice from a half-cut lemon over the spears. Leave it for about ten minutes, and rinse the asparagus with cold water. The acid from the juice will neutralize the bitter flavor.
The Different Types of Asparagus
There are three types of asparagus: white, purple, and green. White asparagus is grown underground and never sees the sunlight. Since no sunlight hits the plant, no chlorophyll is formed. It also makes it the most bitter because the sugars are not present. Amino acids override the proteins, which leaves them bitter.
The purple asparagus is the same as the white one, except that it grows taller and sees the sunlight. Since the sunlight shines on it, it changes color to purple. The chlorophyll did not get a chance to turn the stalk its famous green color. It has a neutral flavor as it is not as bitter as the white one or as sweet as the green one.
Last is green asparagus, which is the most famous. In this one, the sun hits the entire stalk and matures to total growth before picking. Chlorophyll has time to take its full effect and has the best of both worlds: combined sweetness and bitterness.
How to Cook Asparagus
There are different ways to cook asparagus. Most people boil or grill them. They are thin, so it does not take long to cook through. Take the preferred techniques above and use them to lessen the bitterness if you choose. Then follow these steps to come out with the best-tasting asparagus:
- Step 1: Remove the asparagus spears by peeling them, cut an inch off the bottom, and discard the bottom piece.
- Step 2: Add a half cup of water and a teaspoon of salt into a non-reactive skillet.
- Step 3: Cover the skillet and bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Step 4: Take the cover off, add one pound of asparagus, and cook until most of the water evaporates. Be sure to shake the pan to keep the bottom side of the asparagus from burning.
- Step 5: Stir in one tablespoon of butter once most of the water is gone. It is ready to serve when the butter is melted into the asparagus.
- Step 6: Remove the cooked asparagus and serve fresh off the skillet. Do not overcook the asparagus. Once the butter is melted in, it’s done!
Special Tips to Prepare Asparagus
Preparation is what makes the perfect asparagus. These tips will help make it perfect every time you cook asparagus.
- Pick up the freshest asparagus on the display shelf. Choose the locally grown one. They are the freshest.
- Know your asparagus and the type you prefer. The fatter the asparagus is, the more robust the flavor. There are also white, purple, and green asparagus.
- Store the asparagus in airtight ziplock bags after washing it well. Use a paper towel to wrap around them to keep them moist.
- Bend the asparagus to know where to break off the wooden end. As you bend it, the weak spot is the point to break it.
- Use a vegetable peeler to peel the problematic areas.
How do you keep asparagus healthy while growing the plant?
Cut the ferns down after turning brown in the fall. Cut it close to the ground. If it is grown in frigid temperatures, leave it until the beginning of spring, then cut it back.
When is the best time to eat asparagus?
The harvest time for asparagus is in the spring. It is when it is the freshest and sold the most in stores.
Which is better, thick or thin, asparagus?
Thick asparagus has the full flavor and tastes the best. It is in your best interest to take precautions when peeling because it is the most stringy of the two. The thin asparagus is more tender in its texture but is also more fragile.