The first asparagus spears at your local fruit and veg shop are a sign that summer is just around the corner. Turn the woody ends of asparagus spears into this easy asparagus stalk pesto. Use the pesto as a dip, spread, salad dressing or pasta sauce.
Asparagus stalk pesto
1½ cups (approximately) asparagus ends
1 cup loosely packed herbs (basil and mint work well)
1/3 cup walnuts or other nuts
zest and juice of one small lemon
¼ cup olive oil
salt, to taste
Method: Trim the ends of the stalks then cook the asparagus stalks until they are tender – you can do this in the microwave or by boiling them. Allow them to cool once cooked. Place the asparagus in a food processor with the herbs, walnuts, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil. Blend until smooth. Season to taste. Serve with crudités, crackers or toasted bread. You can cook the stalks and then freeze until you have enough to make the dip.
• Asparagus is a delicate vegetable that should be used within a couple of days of buying it. Store in the fridge – stand the spears in a jar or glass with a couple of centimetres of water in the bottom or wrap a wet paper towel around the bottom of the stalks. Try not to damage the tips. • If asparagus goes limp, soak it in cold water to perk it up a bit. • Asparagus has tough woody ends that aren’t very appetising if not cooked properly. While you can easily snap off the ends, it can result in almost a quarter of the spear going to waste. There are still things you can do with the woody ends: if you are going to use the stalks in another dish, then snap the ends off with your hands. Alternatively, trim the ends, then use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer skin. If the spears are thin, they should not need to be peeled. Slice them thinly and use them in a stir-fry or salad. Use them in a soup or to flavour a stock. Try adding them when you pickle vegetables or, if you’re not going to eat them, throw them into your compost or bokashi.