We Can Phickle That! – Asparagus Lactopickles to Bid Farewell to Spring

Chopped asparagus pickles

A-spare-agus yourself the pain of missing out on these pickles. (I’m awesome at puns)

I’m starting a new feature on the blog today: We Can Phickle That!  From now through the end of produce season(s), I’ll be hitting up the farmers markets in search of the best seasonal vegetables to ferment.  I’ll share my successes and favorite flavoring combinations with you on Thursdays until the produce becomes sad and sparse.  If you don’t get the reference, please watch this hilarious video clip that approximately 3,000 of my closest friends and family members have sent  me.

We’re at the sad, sad end of asparagus season here in Philly.  I think asparagus might be in my top 3 things to lactopickle (Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you consummate creator of verbs, Amanda Feifer!!!).  First of all, the smell during fermentation is unbelievable.  I keep thinking someone is cooking something very tempting, and then when I follow my nose it leads me to the jar placed, in an inconveniently distracting fashion, on my desk.  Secondly, these taste amazing.  This is one of those dishes that make you really appreciate the transformative powers of fermentation: Although they are fermented raw, to me they taste cooked upon completion.

My go-to dish for asparagus is one that I’m sure many of you eat: blanched spears topped with a poached egg and drizzled in a mustard sauce. Shkews me.  There’s saliva dripping down my chin.  Hold on a sec.

Okay, I’m back.  You can definitely serve these guys that same way (minus the blanching of the spears) for an added kick.  They also make a great garnish for  shaved asparagus salads or any other pile o’ green things, since their hue turns something between neon and Swamp Thing during fermentation.  The don’t have the beautiful bright green of blanched asparagus, but they make up for that in intense flavor.  That aforementioned mustard sauce was my inspiration for seasoning here.  I chose to keep it simple and just load them with mustard seeds and a single clove of garlic.  If I were growing tarragon this year, I might have thrown in a sprig or two of that towards the end of fermentation.

I mentioned how to serve these, but frankly we eat them plain.  I served them at my Collingswood Farmers Market Demo a couple weeks back and had some very smiley faces from people who had never tried asparagus pickles before!


Fermentation Demo Farmers Market

My demo at the Collingswood Farmers Market where passers-by tasted lactofermented asparagus

Again, we’re talking lactic acid fermentation here, so the key is to keep your asparagus in anaerobic conditions so the l. bacilli will thrive and eat, allowing their acid by-products to preserve your asparagus and infuse it with flavor.  I chose to cut my spears into 2-3 inch pieces, but you can choose to keep them whole (as long as you have a container tall enough) or chop them as small as you like. Full spears may take a tad longer to reach ideal acidity and small pieces may ferment a bit more quickly, but honestly I usually do not notice a drastic difference in fermentation time related to the size of the piece, unless the size difference is enormous.

Lactopickled Asparagus

makes 1 quart, easily scalable

fermentation time approximately 2 weeks at room temperature

Choose medium-thickness asparagus spears that have roughly the same circumference as one another.  I had a few of the super-skinny ones get a touch soft in my last batch.  I didn’t mind it, but they definitely lacked crisp!

If you’re new to lactopickling, please check out my Pickle FAQ before you get started!


  • One bunch of washed asparagus, approximately 15 spears, woody ends trimmed
  • 1 T yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 whole glove of garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups brine (1 T of salt disolved into 2 cups of room temperature water)


1.  (Optional) Chop your asparagus spears crosswise into 2-3 inch pieces, a slanted cut is always pretty.

2. Put your veggies and seasonings in the jar and pour brine over the top.

3. Ensure that veggies are completely submerged underneath the brine using the method of your choice.  This is one time you don’t want to grind your cheapo jar method down too hard.  I like to fill my jar carefully and then gently place my weight on top of the asparagus.  It’s no fun to crush their pretty heads.

4.   Let them sit at room temp (somewhere around 70) for 1-2 weeks, or until your desired acidity has been reached, then stick them in the fridge and enjoy them ’til they’re gone.


  1. says

    Asparagus season has come & gone here, so I missed this one for this year. There’s always next year.
    I did try your rhubarb recipe though and tried them out the other day – mine turned out super garlicy. I love them.

    • Amanda says

      That’s so great, Becky! Glad they turned out! I got another gallon of them made before they ran out of rhubarb and I’m so glad I did! Sorry about the asparagus.
      I got my last bunch of asparagus on Wednesday. Some day I will grow my own and then it’ll be barrels (literally) of asparagus pickles.

    • Amanda says

      Awww, thanks, Cindy! I’m pretty excited about it too. We try to eat seasonally (which gets tricky in the winter sometimes) but I’m really excited about featuring some warm season favorites! Your asparagus looks amazing. I think I could make some asparagus pickle converts serving them like that!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Marci,

      Click the link in number 3 of the instructions. That will lead you to some options for submerging your veggies. The key for lactic acid fermentation is always going to be keeping them completely submerged, so you’ll have to find the way that works best for you. Some favorites include sticking a jar filled with water inside your pickling jar, adding a plastic ziplock back filled with brine, adding a boiled stone or other small weight. Whatever method works best for you will be fine.

      The key is the temperature and the anaerobic (airless) conditions. The submersion is needed because it provides a liquid barrier that air does not pass through. There are also jars that you can purchase that have an airlock, or you can use a jar with a gasket (you still need to weight the veggies down inside the jar). I think the post that is linked to in the recipe will help! Let me know if it doesn’t!

      • Erin says

        I packed my asparagus pretty tight, and they are staying under the brine so far by themselves. I just finished about 5 minutes ago. Do you think that will work, or should I weigh it down with a bag? I’ll keep an eye on it either way. Thanks!

        • Amanda says

          As long as they’re submerged, you’re good to go! Definitely keep an eye on them in the coming days though. They’ll drop a little water weight in the brine, so might see them move towards the surface! If so you’ll want to find a way to keep them submerged so that molds aren’t tempted to rise to the surface!


  2. says

    I wonder if adding grape leafs to the fermentation will keep them a bit crispy. Like fermenting pickles. I have no idea just tossing that out there.

  3. Daphne Boldt says

    Excellent information and creative ideas. We have asparagus coming out of our ears, so instead of boiling water bath picking (or rather in addition to) I will try fermenting. Thanks!

  4. Konstantin says

    Thanks for the great blog posts! Just getting started with lacto-fermentation.

    Have you ever tried pickling white asparagus? It’s how all my relatives grow them, as it’s the traditional way to do here in Germany, so once a year we are drowning in asparagus. Would you change the seasoning for it?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Konstantin,

      I haven’t, but only because the white ones are not as easy to come by in the US. I’m not sure how they’re eaten in Germany, but I practically lived off of white asparagus when I lived in Spain, and they were often served with a mustardy sauce or a hollandaise-like sauce, so I think the seasonings in this recipe would be fine. Feel free to experiment, though!

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Karen says

    Brine turned brownish after one day. Asparagus looks good, but brine is brown. Is this okay??? We cleaned everything, worked off cleaned surfaces and cleans hands. Please help…..Could it be bay leaf or peppercorns???

    • Amanda says

      Hi Karen,

      Without seeing it, I can’t really say. Asparagus can sometimes harbor some grit, which is why I always soak it to clean it. If it’s just that (literally dirt that was stuck in the asparagus and is now in the brine), no worries. I guess it could be the peppercorns, although I ferment with them a lot and I’ve never noticed the brine turning brown. I would wait a couple days and see if the color settles out as sediment before doing anything else.

      If you’re an experienced fermenter, go by smell, taste and texture. If you’re not, wait and see what happens, and then test with a pH strip if things look generally good. Asparagus is definitely an aromatic ferment! Good luck!

  6. Michael Coon says

    How well do you think a crock style fermentation, followed by packing in jars and processing would work? I fear the processing will ruin some of the vitamin value, but add to the shelf life.

    I’ve been purchasing lidded clear glass containers, about 2.5 gallons each, and bulk fermenting then repacking. Glass is okay, yes?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Michael,

      I only canned for a few years, and I didn’t do a lot of leveling up on expertise during that time. One thing I can tell you is that canning ferments can be very dangerous if you don’t have a way to measure the pH with great accuracy. If you plan to can your ferments, I would reach out to your local extension for details about doing it safely. Fermenting is safe precisely because the living bacteria in the the ferment are so good at eliminating the risk of bad things growing; when you can, you kill those probiotic bacteria.

      People definitely do it (sauerkraut is frequently canned following fermentation), but you’ll definitely want to approach that with caution and consult a canning expert before doing it to be safe.

      I also think that you’ll run into potentially unfavorable flavor and texture changes, in addition to the elimination of the health benefits of fermented vegetables.

      Sorry to be a downer! Vegetable fermentation is extremely safe, but once you can your ferments, you take them into another realm.

      Repacking your ferments into smaller containers for cold storage is totally fine.

      Best of luck!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>