Asparagus, despite not being a popular vegetable among Americans, is packed with nutrients and a rich source of essential vitamins and folate. In the US, the annual consumption of asparagus is 1.76 pounds per individual, which fares poorly when compared with tomato which has 11 times more consumption. As a vegetable, asparagus has a use by date, failing which it goes bad and is not suitable for consumption. The question is how to tell if asparagus is bad or if it is good enough to consume safely? While many suggestions abound, it is essential to get a clear picture about the degradation of this vegetable to be able to clearly identify the methods/observation that can be used. Here is an evidence backed presentation of identifying asparagus that has gone bad and is unfit for consumption. But before that, let’s first learn more about asparagus also known as sparrow grass.
Overview of asparagus and how to tell if asparagus is bad
There are basically three varieties of asparagus – white, purple and green. The white is the Spanish and Dutch variety, the green is the American and British variety while the purple is the French variety. The perennial plant is known to row upto a height of 150 cm, and dense foliage. Before we look at how to tell if asparagus is bad it helps to understand more about the benefits of the vegetable for a better perspective.
Helps improve cardiovascular health – The high levels of vitamin B helps in the control of amino acid homocysteine which is considered to pose a serious risk of heart ailments. By regulating the level of the amino acid, vitamin B helps reduce the risk of early development of heart disease. Additionally, asparagus has high levels of soluble fiber, which helps to reduce heart disease risk levels. The presence of asparagine helps to rid the body of excessive levels of salt, which in turn helps to bring down the risk of heart disease.
Effective contribution in holistic treatment of cancer – Asparagus is rich in antioxidants, with anti-inflammatory properties that make it effective in the inhibition of cancer cell proliferation. One of the distinct advantages of asparagus is the presence of saponins (phytonutrients) that impact the body in more ways than one as a result of water soluble and fat soluble properties. As a consequence of this, inhibition of inflammatory molecules is achieved alongwith enhanced white blood cell activity, which is attributed to the prevention of formation of secondary tumors.
Helps improve reflexes of aged individuals – One of the reasons why it is essential to know how to tell if asparagus is bad is because of the possible consumption of asparagus by aged individuals. Asparagus is known to improve cognitive actions, with better speed and mental flexibility among aging populations. The high levels of folate and B12 are regarded as responsible for arresting cognitive decline among the aged.
Controls type 2 diabetes – Asparagus has high levels of antioxidants with a strong anti-inflammatory mechanism of action which helps to control type 2 diabetes. Documented evidence has indicated that asparagus helps to improve insulin secretion, which in turn is beneficial in controlling type 2 diabetes. Other studies have indicated that effective control of type 2 diabetes is attributed to the enhanced beta cell function in the pancreas as a result of asparagus consumption.
Effective diuretic – As a natural diuretic, asparagus helps the body to flush out excess salt and liquids. This helps in expelling toxins from the kidney, and in preventing the formation of kidney stones. The diuretic effect helps to control high blood pressure and edema. A note of caution is important here – asparagus is high in purines and therefore patients with uric acid kidney stones are advised to stop the intake of asparagus, as this could result in the formation of uric acid kidney stones.
Important dietary ingredient for pregnant women – The high amount of folate in asparagus helps to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in babies. This makes it beneficial as an ingredient for pregnant women.
Improves digestion – The high fiber content (specifically inulin) helps improve motility, thereby reducing the chances of individuals suffering from colorectal cancer, as the exposure to harmful toxins is limited with the speedy removal of matter. This also helps to provide relief from acute discomfort attributed to digestive issues.
These are some of the multiple benefits associated with asparagus, despite the low popularity of the vegetable. Let’s delve deeper into information about how to tell if asparagus is bad through touch, looks and smell.
#1 Asparagus that has gone bad will be limp and soft – Fresh asparagus is tight, hard, and the buds will be firm to touch. If the tips are soft and mushy when pressed gently, it indicates that the asparagus has begun to lose its freshness. However, if it is only the tip that is soft, while the stem is hard, it is possible to use the fresh portions, by cutting away the tips or the soft portions. If the stem is also soft and limp, then it is a clear indication that the asparagus needs to be trashed.
#2 Bad asparagus smells unpleasant, similar to all vegetables and fruits – This is a simple indication if asparagus has gone bad. In fact, this is regarded as the quickest way to determine if the vegetable has gone bad, even before you touch it or take close look. The odor may hit you even before you have opened the pack and this helps to understand if the asparagus is good or bad.
#3 Discoloration is an indication that asparagus has possible gone bad – Fresh asparagus is rich green in color. Asparagus that has gone bad is characteristically darker in color. This could be dark green or a shade that is closer to black. As the asparagus ages, the color darkens and this is an indication that it is turning unsuitable for consumption. Depending on the discoloration, you can decide if portions of it can be used or if the entire stem has to be trashed.
Important tip when learning how to tell if asparagus is bad.
#1 – Asparagus stems that are not rigid are considered as beyond the eat-by-date stage, and are therefore unfit for consumption. Here it is necessary to make a distinction between a lack of rigidity as a result of rotting and the lack of rigidity that is attributed to tight packing. For instance, stores rely on elastic and thread for holding bunches of asparagus stems together. This sometimes involve the use of pressure while tightly wrapping the bunch with elastic or thread. This could sometimes cause the asparagus to appear limp, or bending from a point. When you check for bad asparagus, always look through multiple stems to understand if it is rotten. Do not decide by merely looking at one or a few stems – they may be the stems that were on the outside of the bundle and hence exposed to more wrapping pressure.
#2 – Asparagus stems that have visible signs of mold are unfit to be used. No portion of the asparagus stem can be used in such conditions. Asparagus that has a slimy or shiny appearance is indicative of an inedible condition. It is not safe to use the asparagus as an ingredient if it has reached that stage, and can result in possible illness.
Now that you have got a good idea of how to tell if asparagus is bad it is time to know certain storage facts about asparagus which will help in using it the ideal way.
Storage of asparagus in a refrigerator
Asparagus stored in a refrigerator will last for around 4 days, if the condition of asparagus at the time of storage is fresh. Stores that deal in fresh produce often arrange the asparagus in a bunch, with the ends kept damp. This helps to keep the shoots fresh for a longer time. Always pick your asparagus from stores that go the extra mile to maintain the freshness of asparagus. On a similar note, cooked asparagus lasts in the refrigerator for around 5 or six days, depending on the other ingredients used in the preparation.
Storage of asparagus in a deep freezer
Asparagus is transported globally in cold chains and is known to last for as long as 10 months, depending on the efficiency of the cold chain. Freezing the vegetable helps to put it in a state where microbes and fungi do not grow, thereby freezing its freshness till it experiences a thawing. Learning how to tell if asparagus is bad helps you to ensure that your ingredients are fresh and safe to consume – it is equally important to learn a few methods of safely storing asparagus for a long time. If you wish to keep asparagus for a longer period, the best method is to freeze it. Ideally you need to freeze smaller portions or packets, as this will prevent the need for refreezing. For instance, if you have a large packet of vegetables frozen, you will have to thaw the packet and then take the required portion, following which you will refreeze the packet. This exposes the unused vegetables to warm temperatures for a shorter period of time, which can degrade the vegetables. By packing smaller packets for freezing, you can avoid this by taking out only the packets that are intended to be used.
Storage hacks for extending the eat-by-date of asparagus in a refrigerator/freezer
Apart from learning how to tell if asparagus is bad here are two tips that will help you to extend the eat-by-date of asparagus through simple storage hacks. Store the asparagus in a clear plastic bag after trimming the ends of the stems. The clear plastic bags will let you know of the condition of the asparagus is maintained fresh or if requires to be frozen. If you intend to freeze the asparagus, it is always advisable to cut the stems into medium sized pieces, boil the stems and freeze it in an airtight container. This will ensure that the asparagus has a longer eat by date after being frozen. Asparagus is good only when it is fresh and well hydrated. Therefore, storage of asparagus at room temperature should ideally involve the use of a small container of water to immerse the stems. This will ensure that the asparagus stays fresh and hydrated.
Side effects of eating asparagus that should not be confused with bad asparagus
In addition to knowing how to tell if asparagus is bad it is also important to learn of the side effects. This is necessary as it is highly likely that you may end up confusing the side effects of eating asparagus as the effects of eating bad asparagus. Both are different and it is necessary to know the difference. While there are many side effects, some of the side effects are outlined here to avoid confusing them with eating bad asparagus.
Odors in stools – Asparagus is rich in antioxidants and the mineral sulfur. Consequently, there is a possibility of stools giving off a bad odor after you have eaten asparagus. The foul smell is temporary in nature and will clear your system in a maximum of two days after you have eaten asparagus. Remember, it will not change the smell of your stools forever, it will only give a distinct foul odor for a short period after you have eaten asparagus.
Burping and flatulence – Asparagus is a powerhouse of dietary fiber and carbohydrates. The presence of raffinose, a complex carbohydrate is attributed to the excessive build-up of gas. As the human body does not have the enzymes required for breaking down the constituents of the complex carbohydrates, fermentation occurs which results in gas build-up. This gas is then released through burping/flatulence. While learning how to tell if asparagus is bad, it is essential to make the distinction between such side effects and eating bad asparagus.
Foul smelling urine – Similar to bad odors in stools, eating asparagus can result in foul smelling urine. This is attributed to the presence of a sulphurous compound. During the digestive process of breaking down the compound, certain substances are released which cause the bad odor. Tis rotten smell is known to last for a little more than half a day, depending on the quantity consumed and the number of washroom visits.
Maximize the benefits of asparagus by consuming it fresh
Asparagus is a proven powerhouse of nutrition and has multiple health benefits that makes it an essential ingredient for use in preparations for all age groups. From pregnant mothers to senior citizens, the proven benefits of asparagus makes it the ideal ingredient. The nutritional benefits outweigh the side effects attributed to the vegetable. However, it is important to ensure that the vegetable, like all other fresh produce/meat/seafood is consumed fresh. With a clear idea of how to tell if asparagus is bad you are now armed to clearly differentiate between asparagus that is good for consumption and asparagus that is not edible or safe. Additionally, you are also aware of tips to extend the eat-by-date of asparagus when storing in a refrigerator or deep freezing the boiled stems.