White Asparagus Has Arrived

Spring in Switzerland also means the arrival of local green and white asparagus—and apparently violet too, which I have yet to find. Never having cooked white asparagus before, I bought a small bunch at my local farmer’s market this week. At about 16 CHF per kilogram (about 8 USD per pound), I handed over a small fortune for this springtime delicacy.

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While I’ve seen white asparagus before in the United States, it’s just not that common, and I had never tried it. This time of year, in comparison, we’re finding white asparagus everywhere around our Swiss town. A nearby restaurant even advertises a special asparagus menu with items ranging from salads and soups to seafood, pasta and pizza.

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Based on my limited research, here are some key things I’ve learned about white asparagus:

  • White asparagus is the same as green, farmers just grow it covered in dirt and plastic. It has no sunlight, so photosynthesis doesn’t take place to add any color.
  • You can’t really overcook it. That’s good news! Unlike green asparagus, white is typically steamed until soft.
  • You need to peel it. Since it’s grown in the dirt, the outside gets a little tougher and stringier. And, peel the asparagus while it’s laying down because it’s fragile and can break easily.

During a recent night out with my husband sans children, I ordered cream of white asparagus soup with potato-tarragon beignets at our neighborhood brasserie. My first taste of exotic white asparagus! So much cream and butter! I would never serve this at home because of my son’s allergies, so it was a real treat.

Home-Cooked White Asparagus

Since yesterday was Ascension Day, everything was closed. As usual, I didn’t plan ahead and just had to cook the white asparagus with what I had on hand. Although I really needed to add some lemon juice, I just boiled the white asparagus in water with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes or so.

While the asparagus was boiling, I grated some old baguette to make bread crumbs and finely chopped some fresh thyme. I threw both these ingredients into a small pan with some vegetable-based margarine and a few pieces of torn up prosciutto. I toasted the bread crumb mixture on high heat for a couple minutes and tossed it over the boiled asparagus. And, voila! Dairy, egg and nut-free white asparagus. If it wasn’t so expensive, I would buy it more often!

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For more information about white asparagus, here are some links I used for my informal research:

Due to the holiday weekend, we’ve planned some local sightseeing excursions. I hope to discover some new Swiss foods while we’re on our adventures. Bon week-end!

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2 thoughts on “White Asparagus Has Arrived

  1. Sandy Shaw says:

    Hi Heddi, That looks good! Have a good weekend on your adventures. I just wanted to tell you that there used to be a major White Asparagus Festival at the Andover Inn in Andover at this season. When you come back you can check it out for comparison. My green asparagus is keeping up with our demand in my garden. xoSandra

    • dairyfreeswitzerland says:

      Hi Sandra, that sounds great. I didn’t realize there was an inn and restaurant on the campus. Glad your garden is doing so well. I just sent Nate and the boys to pick up some green asparagus at the farmers’ market! 🙂 Have a good weekend – Heddi

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