How to pick out the best asparagus in the grocery store

Just like every other fruit and veggie in the produce section, every stalk of asparagus looks a little different. Some stalks are as thin as a pencil, while others can get as wide as your thumb (or even thicker). If you've ever wondered about the difference between them, or just how to pick the best stalks so they don't end up getting too woody before you have the chance to cook them, there are a few quick tests you can use at the grocery store to find the freshest veggies.

For starters, avoid any asparagus stalks that already look a little shriveled or withered (though you're probably already doing that anyway). According to The Kitchn, be on the lookout for asparagus stalks that are straight and plump, dry, that have extra-woody ends, or are split. Whether you add stems that are thick or thinner to your cart is all based on personal preference: Thicker stalks usually come from older plants and can be a little juicier than thin stems.

And according to The Spruce Eats, fresh asparagus should be firm and stand up straight. Also, the brighter the color, the better – if your asparagus is a dull green, it's probably old. The tip of the stalk shouldn't be starting to spread out, either, so look for stems with tightly closed tips. The stalks get woodier as the sugar in the veggie turns into starch, which is how you'll know if you end up with old stems.

How to store asparagus so it stays fresh

Once you pick out the perfect stalks and bring them home, storing them correctly will also help keep them fresh until you're ready to cook (don't wait too long though, because they'll still only last for a few days). According to Foodtown, wait to wash your asparagus until you're just about to cook it. It'll last best if the stalks stay a little moist while the tips remain completely dry. To do this, try trimming the ends, then wrapping the stems in a wet paper towel so the tips are sticking out. Then put them in a plastic bag and store in the veggie drawer in your fridge for up to four days.

If that doesn't work, Foodtown also recommends storing them a little like flowers. Trim the ends, then stand the stalks up in a vase or bowl with about 1 inch of water. Cover the tips with plastic wrap to ensure they stay dry, and store in the fridge for three to four days. It might look a little funny at first, but both The Kitchn and The Spruce Eats recommend a similar method, so it's definitely a good way to keep your asparagus fresh. Of course, for the freshest flavor, you can also cook your asparagus as soon as you bring it home from the store and skip the whole storage process.