Boil Your Asparagus Upside Down To Prevent Mushy Tips

When it comes to versatile veggies, asparagus tops the list. It can be steamed, roasted, sautéed, or even charred for a delicious grilled asparagus and Idiazábal recipe. It can also be enjoyed raw — simply thinly slice the stalk so the hard parts are easier to chew and then toss it into a crunchy greens and bread salad

Still, boiling asparagus is perhaps the quickest way to whip up this nutrient-dense vegetable if you follow one important tip: Boil them stalk-side down with the tips sticking out of the water in order to prevent the top from becoming too mushy.

Many well-meaning asparagus recipes may recommend tossing the green spears haphazardly into a large pot of scalding water to cook. However, since asparagus has such a varying consistency — the woody stalks are quite hard whereas the leaf-like tips are incredibly tender — it requires a more precise method of cooking. Thus, boiling them upside down actually makes it possible to achieve the perfect texture because the stalks are able to cook fully submerged in hot water while the dainty tips are able to be steamed. Interestingly enough, this cooking hack was used as far back as Ancient Rome, so you can be certain that it's effective.

We have the Romans to thank for this trick

As it turns out, Roman Emperors were strangely fascinated by asparagus. The tried and true method for boiling the veggie backward actually dates back to around the 1st century AD when the clever trick was featured in the ancient "Apicius de re Coquinaria" cookbook, which contains a variety of Imperial Roman recipes for cooking fruits and vegetables like pumpkins, cucumbers, leeks, beets, and, of course, asparagus. 

One of the world's oldest cookbooks, "Apicius de re Coquinaria" has recipes that were originally written in vulgar Latin. However, thanks to a 1936 translation by author Joseph Dommers Vehling, professional chefs and foodies alike are able to glean big cooking secrets like how to make the perfect asparagus: cooking it "rursus" in boiling water. "This word has caused us some reflection, but the ensuing discovery made it worth while," Dommers Vehling writes under a section entitled "Asparagos." He adds, "In this case rursus means backwards, being a contraction from revorsum, h.e. reversum. The word is important enough to be observed."

Ready to cook like the Romans? The best part about this boiling hack is that it makes whipping up tender asparagus a breeze. That's right, you'll never have to contend with unevenly cooked tough stems or mushy tips again.

The key is boiling it backwards

Before you can whip up the most delectable asparagus for your next lunch or dinner, you must first prepare it for boiling. Thoroughly wash the spears in water and pat them dry before removing the thick skin with a peeler. Next, place the veggie stalk-side down into the boiling water so that their tips are thoroughly sticking out. You can tie the spears together according to their size; however, this is completely optional. Also, be sure to season the water with a large pinch of salt.

You'll want to cook the green spears for about three to five minutes until they're tender, or up to seven minutes for any thicker stalks. Once everything is done cooking, simply drain the water and season the asparagus with your favorite sauce — such as a creamy, zesty mixture of lemon and butter — for a meal that's truly for the ages.