You will want to get the most enjoyment possible when you purchase the world’s most expensive vegetable. Fortunately, asparagus is also relatively simple in terms of its flavor profile. This allows you a range of seasoning options. You can complement asparagus spears with an herb or spice that makes it more complex or take a simpler route and use something that plays to the vegetable’s flavor profile. Consider the following options.
Black pepper is one of the most obvious choices for seasoning asparagus. In part, this is because of how versatile the drupe of the Piper nigrum plant is; it goes with almost every savory food in existence and some sweet ones as well. The herbal quality of asparagus is greatly complemented by the citrus and pine notes that you get from black pepper. Its heat helps to cut through the vegetal nature of the asparagus and makes it a more enjoyable food for people who do not like vegetables. To get the best possible effect from black pepper, avoid pre-ground pepper. You will want to grind your peppercorns right before sprinkling them onto the asparagus spears or grind them directly onto the asparagus if possible.
Whereas black pepper is made from the whole unripe drupe of the Piper nigrum vine, white pepper is made from ripe drupes. Along with being ripe, they have had their outer skins removed leaving the white inner part. White pepper has a flavor that some describe as earthy and that works well with asparagus. It has some of the black pepper’s citrusy and pine notes, but less of the heat. The reduced heat allows the flavor of asparagus to shine, making white pepper a better option for those who actually like the vegetable’s taste. As with black pepper, fresh is best and a coarser grind is also best. Add it right before you serve the asparagus.
Garlic is another all-purpose seasoning that you can use to bring almost any savory food to life. Its sulfurous intensity works well with the mild bitterness of asparagus and gives it an umami flavor that can make it more appetizing. You can season asparagus with garlic in any form, including fresh and powdered. Use the form best suited to the style of cooking. Sprinkle grilled asparagus with garlic powder, or add minced garlic to oil for a quick stir-fry.
Lemon is one of the flavors that works best with asparagus. Squeezing lemon juice over your asparagus spears has long been viewed as one of the best ways to prepare them. Citrus can bring a brightness to asparagus that it would otherwise lack and you can get a similar benefit from lemon balm. In addition to pairing well with the asparagus itself, the citronella aroma from lemon balm will work well with other spices and seasonings that you might use.
Nuttiness is another great complement to the flavor of asparagus; sesame seeds provide this and can improve the vegetable’s texture with their crunchiness. You can sprinkle sesame seeds onto the spears just before serving them; they add a subtle but noticeable nut flavor. Sesame seeds are also great for texture and flavor if you are stir-frying your asparagus.
Maldon sea salt
Salt is arguably the most important seasoning on this list. For asparagus, ensure that you use a salt that offers the cleanest and brightest flavor. While any sea salt will work, Maldon sea salt provides a purer salt flavor that does not compound the bitterness of asparagus but enhances its bright herbal qualities instead.