It's been a few weeks since the first asparagus started popping up on market stalls and in CSA boxes. In the States, we're far more likely to find the thin, green variety of asparagus, delicious when simply roasted, sautéed or even steamed. What you may be less familiar with is the version known as white asparagus.
Natural Pale Color
I know what you're thinking: the difference in color is a simple difference in variety, right? Actually, no! An all-natural process goes into keeping the pale color of white asparagus pale. The shoots are covered with soil as they grow, so they are not exposed to photosynthesis. This keeps their green color from developing.
Preparing White Asparagus
Unlike green asparagus, white asparagus needs a bit more preparation than simply snapping off the woody ends and popping it under the broiler. Because white asparagus are generally allowed to grow longer and are thus much fatter, their skin has had time to develop and can be quite tough. White asparagus should be peeled up to the tips and its woody ends should be trimmed.
White aspargus is usually more tender inside and less bitter than green asparagus. In many European countries, it is the preferred version, and many white asparagus recipes hail from French, Dutch and Belgian cuisine. The possibilities are endless, but here are just a few to get you started:
- White asparagus with Serrano ham and chive dressing
- Dutch white asparagus with prosciutto, beurre blanc and a poached egg
- White asparagus and ham gratin
- Lemon-steamed white asparagus with hollandaise sauce
- Try something a bit more exotic, with a gratin of white asparagus, coconut and lemongrass