Looking for a unique variety of asparagus to compliment your next dish? Why not try purple asparagus! This lesser-known type is gaining popularity for its violet hue, natural sweetness, and even nuttier flavor. Green asparagus is good, but I would argue that purple asparagus gives us just more of what we crave from the green varietal.
In this blog post, we will explore everything you need to know about purple asparagus. We will define it, describe its physical features and taste, and explore how to cook with it. Plus, we will provide tips on picking the best ones at the grocery store and how to store them properly.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What is Purple Asparagus?
Purple asparagus is a vegetable that belongs to the family Asparagaceae and the genus Asparagus. It is native to Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. The plant grows to about two feet tall and produces small, white flowers.
Purple asparagus gets its color from anthocyanin, also found in blueberries and blackberries. This pigment is an antioxidant linked to several health benefits, including reduced inflammation, improved heart health, and cancer prevention.
Purple Asparagus Characteristics
- Taste and Texture: Purple asparagus has a milder, sweeter flavor than green asparagus. It is also slightly more tender and crunchy. Some say it tastes like a cross between an artichoke and a green bean with notes of almond and barley.
- Appearance and Size: Purple asparagus spears are thinner than green asparagus and have a vibrant purple color. They range in size from about six to eight inches long.
- Price: Purple asparagus is usually more expensive than green asparagus because it is more challenging to grow and not abundantly available.
Availability: Purple asparagus is typically only available during the spring months.
How to Eat Purple Asparagus
When it comes to cooking with purple asparagus, the options are endless. This versatile vegetable can be grilled, roasted, sauteed, or even eaten raw. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are a few ways you can eat purple asparagus:
- Grilled: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Then, trim the ends of the asparagus and toss the spears with olive oil and salt. Grill them for about five minutes or until tender. Serve them with some grilled salmon or other flavor-packed fish!
- Roasted: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 205 degrees Celsius. Cut the asparagus spears into even pieces, around two inches in length. Spread them across a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil. Season them with salt and pepper to taste. Roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are moderately browned and fork-tender.
- Sauteed: Trim the ends of the asparagus spears. Warm a splash of olive oil or butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Throw in the asparagus once the oil is heated or the butter has melted. Cook them for about three minutes, occasionally moving them around the pan. Finally, finish the asparagus with salt and pepper to taste.
- Raw: Simply wash and trim the ends of the asparagus, and enjoy them raw! Consider adding them to a salad, wrap, or eating them as a healthy snack with our tzatziki!
- In a recipe: See our favorite purple asparagus recipes in the section below (link to that section).
The Nutritional Value of Purple Asparagus
Asparagus, in general, is a nutritional powerhouse. It is a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and E, and folate. Asparagus also contains various antioxidants and phytochemicals linked to health benefits such as reduced inflammation and improved heart health. But what about purple asparagus? Is it any different from the more traditional green assortment?
Purple asparagus actually contains more antioxidants than green asparagus. These beneficial compounds help to protect cells from damage and may reduce the risk of some chronic diseases.
Purple asparagus is also a good source of anthocyanins, pigments that give fruits and vegetables their color. These pigments are proven to offer a variety of health benefits, including improved brain function and reduced inflammation.
How to Pick the Best Purple Asparagus at the Market
When shopping for purple asparagus, look for firm and crisp spears. Avoid limp or soft spears as these are past their prime. You’ll also want to ensure that the tips are still closed up tight; if they’re starting to open up, that means the asparagus is starting to go bad. Additionally, avoid brown and mushy tips for the same reason.
Another important consideration is size. Purple asparagus comes in a range of sizes, from thin spears to thick stalks. Choose the size that best suits your needs. For instance, if you plan on eating the asparagus raw, thin spears will be more pleasurable to eat as they are more tender. On the other hand, if you plan on cooking the asparagus, thicker stalks will hold up better during the cooking process.
Moreover, give the bunch a sniff; it should smell fresh and not at all sour. If the asparagus smells sour, it may indicate that the bunch is past its prime. What’s more, the asparagus will be tough and stringy to eat.
Finally, take a look at the color of the purple asparagus spears. The color can range from deep purple to almost blue. Choose the spears with the color that you find most appealing. Remember that the asparagus’ color will not affect its flavor.
How to Store Purple Asparagus Properly
Treat purple asparagus with care as it is a delicacy. Unlike its green and white counterparts, purple asparagus is best eaten freshly picked; The longer it sits, the more likely it is to lose its flavor and texture.
However, if you find yourself with more than you can eat right away, there are a few steps you can take to prolong its shelf life:
- Short-term storage: You can also store purple asparagus in the refrigerator by wrapping the spears in a damp paper towel and placing them in a perforated bag. Use them within a few days to ensure the highest quality.
- Medium-term storage: First, trim the ends of the asparagus and place the spears (feather tip facing up) in a jar or vase filled with an inch or two of water. Then, cover the jar or vase loosely with a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. This method will ensure that the asparagus stays fresh for up to a week.
Long-term storage: If you want to keep it even longer, you can blanch the asparagus by boiling it for two minutes before shock-chilling it in ice water. Blanched asparagus can last up to two weeks when stored properly in the refrigerator. Either way, enjoy your purple asparagus while it’s fresh!
Recipes that Use Purple Asparagus
Yes, you can eat purple asparagus raw. Just wash and trim the ends of each spear, then add them to salads and wraps, or enjoy them on their own as a healthy snack.
Yes, purple asparagus is typically more expensive than green asparagus because they are more challenging to grow and less widely available.
Purple asparagus is typically only available during the spring months. Check your local grocery store or farmers market to see if it’s in season.
You can find purple asparagus at most major grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and specialty food stores.
No, you do not have to peel purple asparagus. The skin is edible and relatively thin, so there’s no need to peel it off.