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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Tis the Season…for White Asparagus

“When I start seeing white asparagus cropping up in grocery stores, I know that spring is really here,” chef Philippe Haddad of F & B told me. Late April through May is the prime season for this crop, most popular in France, Belgium and Germany.

white asparagus "Flemish style" at F&B

white asparagus "Flemish style" at F&B

And yet, white asparagus can be hard to find fresh, often appearing on the forgettable canned vegetable aisle, a place that many home cooks eschew. While green asparagus is the skinny, feeble underachieving brother of the spargel family, white asparagus is the prom king, the muscular quarterback. When found fresh, the dense, meatier texture of white asparagus elevates spring dishes to a new level. The thickness almost triples the size of conventional green asparagus, rivaling the diameter of celery stalks.

Where pale color is usually a sign of blandness in vegetables, this is not the case. The lack of color comes from growing the white asparagus in the dark, buried under white sandy soils. The versatility of white asparagus allows it to make a solo appearance as a stand out side on menus, or as a companion to a firm, white fish like halibut or sea bass.

“It’s the perfect marriage of flavor,” said chef Haddad. “The key with cooking white asparagus is to make sure you don’t overpower the natural flavor. Minimal seasoning is all you need.”

A native of France and General Manager of Davios, Claude Guillaume orders white asparagus every year for his family from a small farm in France. It is a staple on their Mother’s Day table, despite the added difficulty it takes to prepare. Unlike its green counterpart, thick white asparagus has a tough, bitter peel that has to be removed before cooking.

Even with an extra step, white asparagus is worth scoping out at markets to cook this spring. Or if you don’t want to fuss with the peeler, you’ll find it cropping up on menus around town. Chef Haddad is changing up his preparations weekly, offering a white asparagus soup with chanterelles and a “Flemish style” dish with hard boiled eggs and parsley. The dish balances nicely with the acidity of a Louis Latour Pouilly-Fuisse Chardonnay 2012.

-By Alexa Lampasona for the Food & More blog

10 comments Add your comment

hotlantahobo

May 1st, 2014
9:00 am

Has anyone actually found fresh real European white asparagus here? I have only found Peruvian asparagus and it’s not as good as the the real thing from Germany. If Guillaume has to order his from France it must not be available here. But I wonder how it’s passed through the agricultural inspection process? All at great cost I’m sure.

Baltisraul.....

May 1st, 2014
1:26 pm

hotlantahobo……interesting. I know nothing about what can or can’t pass agricultural inspection. How is it that we can get veggies from Peru ( ie: sweet onions till Vidalia’s arrive) and not from France?

Baltisraul.....

May 1st, 2014
1:32 pm

While I am asking questions; Are the French still trying to get us to pay for beach erosion at Normandy? They insited that had it not been for our invasion force and subsequant landings, they would not have this problem. You gotta love the French! It makes so much sense to them!

hotlantahobo

May 1st, 2014
3:16 pm

Balti….If you’ve ever arrived here on an international flight, you’ll notice a beagle dressed in a uniform sniffing all the suitcases as they arrive for pickup. If he sniffs any produce or meats you’ll be pulled into the inspection office, the food will be confiscated and you’ll possibly be fined. This French shipper may have an export license to ship his asparagus into the US but my point is that the air freight and customs handling fees would make that kilo of white beauties very expensive. The produce we get from any foreign country is subject to USDA inspection, but these importers have bulk inspections done at the port of entry.

The best white asparagus I’ve had is from Germany, but I know the Benelux region produces equally fine products. And the French I’ve met have always been very grateful for our assistance during World War II, even though this is very off-topic and makes me wonder how all AJC blogs end up with political diatribes.

Baltisraul.....

May 1st, 2014
5:22 pm

hotlantahobo….thanks for the info..Would not call it a diatribe but just a simple question and observation. Can’t remember seeing the veggie dog but it stands to reason we have them. Don’t read anything more into it. Sometimes I need supervision. ha ha

Art

May 2nd, 2014
7:51 am

Balt, there’s a French veggie dog somewhere that’s got your number.

Fred

May 2nd, 2014
11:41 am

You may have noticed a white asparagus in the grocery store before. Don’t fall for it. They aren’t widely available and frankly expensive, mostly appealing as a novelty to restaurants really, rather than the home cook. The only difference between the green and white asparagus is that white are grown in darkness to make them colorless, but they do taste pretty much the same otherwise.

Mary from http://www.deepsouthdish.com

But then again, yuppies are mindless sheep and bleat at whatever the sheep dog tells them to bleet at so go buy white asparagus.

Baltisraul.....

May 2nd, 2014
12:00 pm

Art….I will be the dog whisperer to the little fellow and he will follow me home, along with my French contraband.

Edward

May 5th, 2014
9:38 am

I love asparagus, but only the very thin young spears. If they get to be the thickness of my little finger, they’re too big. I toss the spears in some olive oil and lemon juice, lay them out on a baking sheet, sprinkle with some sea salt, and oven roast them at 400F for about 12 minutes. Perfect.

Becky

May 5th, 2014
3:50 pm

@Edward..Ditto,except I put butter on them and sprinkle them with garlic.My two young ones love it like this..I have also wrapped bacon around about 5-6 at time and coked them that way..