“Discard the woody ends.” That’s the first rule any cook learns about cooking with asparagus.
But, as the many kind people who have helped me move six times in the past eleven years can attest, I hate to throw anything away. I darn socks. I even darn yoga pants. If there’s still a use for something, I try hard to reuse or repurpose it.
But…the woody bits on the end of asparagus?
Yes, there’s a use for those too! I recently found out you can use them in a flavorful vegetable broth. In fact, you can make a cream of asparagus soup and, right as you’re prepping these beautiful gems of the Pennsylvania springtime, you can toss the ends of the asparagus in a separate pot and create your own asparagus-centric vegetable broth.
It’s the easiest nose-to-tail recipe in the world. And it’s one more way to reduce food waste in your kitchen, which is great for your food budget and our beautiful planet.
Here are a few other ways:
- Wash the ends of vegetables well and save them for making broth later. You can also throw in peels and veggies that are a little past their prime but not moldy or rotten. I always have a freezer bag dedicated for this purpose.
- Start an herb garden (indoors or out) instead of buying fresh herbs. That way, you can snip off what you need instead of forgetting about that poor cilantro getting soggy at the bottom of the crisper.
- Use greens from the tops of beets (they’re very mild) and carrots (a little spicy). Pestos and gremolatas work well for lots of random types of greens, and this meatless “meatball” recipe is always a winner.
- Be flexible with your meal plan. I love the way frittatas and curries work with nearly any veggies I have on hand–so they’re great for ingredients that need to be used pronto.
- Before squeezing a lemon for juice, peel the zest and freeze it in a small container or baggie.
- Make delicious casseroles with the stems of cauliflower, broccoli or Swiss chard. (You haven’t lived till you’ve had Alice Waters’ chard stem gratin.)
For other plant-based food scraps, composting is ideal for converting trash into treasure.
But, first things first, try out this cream of asparagus recipe.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 russet potato, roughly chopped
- 4 cups asparagus, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Prepare the asparagus: Reserve tips in a small bowl, roughly chop the middle portion, and use the woody ends for broth. Simmer them in a saucepan with 6 cups of water for 25 minutes and then strain the liquid into a bowl. Get this going so it simmers while you chop the rest of the veggies.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot and sauté onions, garlic and celery about 5 minutes until soft. Add potatoes, asparagus (except the tips) and asparagus broth. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes).
- Transfer the veggies into a bowl, let them cool slightly, then puree in a blender in batches. Return pureed vegetables to pot. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and reheat. Steam the asparagus tops in a little bit of boiling water for about 3 minutes. Use for garnish.