When I think of Spring and especially May, my eyes light up and I’m transported back to all the times I spent in Germany during this special month. It’s special because the first asparagus tips have pushed through the soil and the first “Spargel” starts showing up on menus. You will find these tender (primarily white) tips served in an unbelievable variety of ways… with radicchio and Parma ham (one of my favorites), with strawberry sauce, in delicious, creamy soups, with potatoes and spices, with egg omelets, with fresh river trout, with homemade linguine bacon and tomatoes, in crepes, in lasagna, in quiche, with a variety of meat dishes and simply topped with lovely, creamy, homemade Hollandaise sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is with all of these memories!
When you look for asparagus in the markets, you will find it in three distinctly different colors. So what is really the difference?
WHITE ASPARAGUS is white because it can’t get any light. This process is called etoliation. Dirt is mounded around the emerging stalks and the fields are also covered with light proof netting. No chlorophyll (which would make the plant green) develops to help the plant absorb light, because there isn’t any light, so the stalks remain white. Many plants that are grown using etoliation are small and weak, but in the case of asparagus, the white stalks are usually large and robust. They also develop a stiff outer coating that MUST be peeled in order to eat them. Try not peeling it once and you will see what I mean. The asparagus will be absolutely inedible. On second thought, trust me on this one and don’t waste this beautiful vegetable. The taste is a bit milder than green asparagus and the color can be very interesting when added to other dishes. You cook it just like green asparagus and it can be interchangeable in recipes.
GREEN ASPARAGUS, on the other hand, does not need to be peeled, with one exception. When the stalks are very large, I do peel it very thinly, using a peeler, just to remove the large “thorns”. The thorns will not prick your fingers, but when they get very large, they don’t taste that great and the texture can be unpleasant. With green asparagus, I prefer the tender, young stalks that only take a couple of minutes to steam and enjoy. The larger stems can have a very “woody” taste and are simply not as good.
PURPLE ASPARAGUS was cultivated from green asparagus. It is just as healthy, a little tenderer and has a slightly different taste than green asparagus. It needs to be steamed quickly or baked because its color fades when exposed to water. But again, it’s an interesting color addition to recipes.
All asparagus is also a GREAT diet food! It contains high levels folate and potassium as well as antioxidants that fight against heart disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. To cook it, just steam it for a few minutes or until you can just get a fork through it. It’s easy to make and a good idea to get it into your diet!
Here’s a fun asparagus recipe that I did for MexAmerica Foods: Get the recipe at: http://mexamericarecipes.com/main-ingredient/eggs-sausage-bacon/spring-asparagus-roll-1827/