HASsparagus spears are packed with nutrients and flavor from tip to stem, so it’s a no-brainer to want to savor every last morsel of this glorious vegetable. If thinly cut, for example, even the thickest parts of the stems can be stir-fried, added to risottos or tossed through salads.
Asparagus also becomes less expensive if you eat the whole spear. To use it with minimal waste, check how fibrous the ends are by cutting a thin round off the very bottom and tasting because, so long as they’re sliced thinly enough, even the tough ends can be made palatable. By cutting the spear thinly across the grain, you are cutting the fibers into very short lengths that should be texturally fine to eat. If you have very old woody asparagus, however, and the thin rounds are indigestible, peel and compost the thick skin and cut the rest into 2-3mm-thick coins.
Asparagus end slaw
We eat 200m asparagus spears in the UK each year, many of them imported from Peru. The Environmental Impacts of Vegetable Consumption in the UK study found that asparagus had among the highest impacts across most of the categories considered, and that air-freighted fresh vegetables have five times higher impacts than UK-grown produce – all good reasons to enjoy domestic asparagus from root-to-fruit in season and in its entirety.
This recipe turns the often wasted bottom part of an asparagus stem into a zesty, flavorsome slaw. I’ve written it to be adaptable, so you can make the most of whatever seasonal and pantry ingredients are available.
To pare the recipe back, so you can get creative and make it your own, the different ingredients can be categorized into 400g thinly sliced vegetables, 50g alliums (spring onion, leek or red onion), 150g sour fruits, four tablespoons of mixed nuts , dried fruit and seeds (I used trail mix and some poppy seeds that needed using up) and 15g soft herbs, all dressed with citrus or vinegar and olive oil, and seasoned to taste.
I like to serve salads such as this with the ingredients kept separate in the bowl, so people can see the vibrant colors side by side, and dress and toss it at the table, so it keeps a zingy, super-fresh flavor.
1 bunch-worth of asparagus ends (about 150g), thinly sliced
200g radishesfinely sliced
50g radish leavesor chard or another leafy green, shredded
2 spring onionsfinely sliced from top to tail (or 50g dark green leek tops, cut likewise)
150g sour fruit – for example, thinly sliced rhubarb, clementine segments, halved gooseberries
4 tbsp mixed nuts, dried fruit and seeds
15g soft herbs (parsley, mint, basil), leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
½ organic unwaxed lemonjuiced and zested (or 2 tbsp cider vinegar)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Put the finely sliced asparagus ends into serving bowl. Arrange the sliced radishes and their leaves alongside, then put the spring onions in the bowl with the sour fruit. Scatter over the mixed nuts, dried fruit and seeds, and the herbs. When you’re ready to eat, take the bowl to the table and dress with the lemon juice and zest and olive oil. Season to taste, toss and serve straight away.