(white) asparagus with mushrooms and lemon.
me, there’s no more secure harbinger of the exodus from
winter than the oh so welcomed gift of a bundle of tender
asparagus stalks from a dear friend who has been nurturing
her asparagus bed for many years. A perennial, asparagus
takes a few years of cultivating before it will yield its
tasty rewards. It is worth the wait.
were transplanted to the climes of Europe, we’d welcome
the arrival of asparagus, especially the white asparagus,
with fanfare ranging from exuberant festivals to the
crowning of asparagus royalty. There is perhaps no other
country that values this healthful, mildly flavorful
vegetable than Germany.
is no other vegetable more revered there during spargelzeit,
which translates to asparagus season in German. Spargel is
served as a main course with boiled potatoes on the side,
all topped with melted butter (spargel mit butter). Unlike
the white asparagus found here, the stalks in Germany are as
thick as a thumb.
apples mark the fall season, nothing epitomizes spring like
the revered white stalks of spargel!" So began a
homepage article in bygermanfoods.org. The article notes
that the "average German enjoys the delicate flavor of
this tender spring vegetable at least once a day." In
fact, many home cooks own a special asparagus steamer pot
which is either tall and slender or shallow and oval-shaped.
Feather, an extension educator with the Penn State Extension
office and former garden columnist for the Post-Gazette,
said white asparagus is white because it is grown in the
absence of light under mounds of soil so the spears do not
have the opportunity to undergo photosynthesis.
said green asparagus is a comparatively easy crop. Aside
from having to wait about three years to let it grow, the
plants will yield a harvest for about six weeks and the bed
will remain productive for up to 40 years.
Ellen Camire, a fellow with the Institute of Food
Technologists based in Chicago and a professor of food
science and human nutrition at the University of Maine,
studies both the "sensory evaluation" of foods as
well as their nutritional content.
it to a vampire’s storied aversion to light, Camire said
this "vampire vegetable" requires a vegetable
peeler. "It’s has a thicker skin than we’re used to
with the green asparagus," she said, noting that the
variety probably became more thick-skinned because of its
immersion in soil. She described the taste experience as
"gentler and creamier." My two daughters, who both
spent a year in Germany, added juicier. I would add a bit
"nuttier" in flavor.
said there has not been a lot of testing of white asparagus
for nutritional quality but noted it is assumed that it is
very similar to green asparagus — which means it is a
powerhouse of vitamins and a good source of antioxidants.
fact, in my experimentation with the cooking of green
asparagus, it is adequate to snap off the woody bottoms of
green asparagus with the common trick of holding the stalk
at each end (not the very tip, but rather the meatier ends
of the spear) then bending and allowing the stalk to snap at
its natural breaking point. Only if the stalks are
especially thick do they require peeling.
same was not true with white asparagus. I found after
several go-rounds that white asparagus stalks remain tough,
even with excessive cooking. A vegetable peeler should be
used, stroking the stalk from the top down, to essentially
peel the spear. This can be a challenge with the
store-bought varieties from Peru, which are slender. But,
stripping even a little of the stalk made the vegetable more
picking asparagus, select firm, straight stalks with closed,
compact tips. Both green and white asparagus may have a
purplish hue at the tip and this is OK.
using immediately, wrap the stem ends in moist paper towels,
pop into a plastic bag or wrap in plastic wrap, and
the stalks involves washing and snapping off the woody ends
at their natural breaking point. If using white asparagus,
use a vegetable peeler to shave away the "skin" a
couple of inches below the tip. This technique is not
necessary with green asparagus.
underground root system of asparagus is a network of fleshy
storage roots with small feeder roots that absorb water and
nutrients. The storage roots are attached to an underground
stem called a rhizome; taken together, storage roots and a
rhizome are commonly referred to as an asparagus crown.
Often, the crown is purchased for starting plants, although
seeds can be used, too.
the soil is warm and moist, buds arise from the rhizome and
grow into edible spears. If they are not harvested, spears
continue to develop into attractive, green, fernlike stalks
(brush). Photosynthesis in the brush of the mature plant
produces essential nutrients that are moved down to the
storage roots where these reserve supply energy for spear
production in the following growing season. For these
reasons, the bush must be allowed to grow and be protected
from insects and diseases.
does poorly in soil with a pH level below 6.0 After the
first growing season, asparagus plants do not require
frequent irrigation because of their deep and extensive root
system. Plants must be allowed to develop an adequate
storage root system before the first harvesting season.
Harvesting the brush during the first growing season stunts
the plants and can permanently reduce yield. In the second
year, when the first spears emerge in spring, snap off the
upper green and tender portion of all tight spears 7- to
40-foot row of 5-year-old asparagus will yield about 10 to
25 pounds of spears during the average season which usually
ends at mid-June.
From "How to Grow Asparagus" from Penn State’s
College of Agricultural Sciences, courtesy of Sandy Feather
of the Penn State Extension office
mushrooms can be used instead of jarred ones. But make sure
to cook them down a bit so the resulting liquid from the
cooking process doesn’t make the dish sloppy. I chose to
use white asparagus with this dish and tossed black sesame
seeds on top for some color contrast. Warning: I found that
the white asparagus is not as attractive on the plate as
green. But, it was scrumptious.
pound of asparagus (white or green)
(4-ounce) jar of sliced mushrooms, drained
tablespoons of butter
teaspoon of lemon juice
teaspoon of sesame seeds, toasted
asparagus (snap for green, peel for white) then cook in a
small amount of boiling salted water in a covered pan until
crisp-tender. Time depends on your preference and the
thickness of the stalks. Drain well.
to a microwave safe oblong dish and add mushrooms, butter
and lemon juice. Heat through in the microwave. Sprinkle
with toasted sesame seeds.
Adapted from "Better Homes and Gardens All-Time
Favorite Vegetable Recipes" by Doris Eby (Meredith
hollandaise is a classic accoutrement to asparagus. Because
of the color contrast, I served it with the green asparagus.
Remember not to overcook the hollandaise; you’ll know it’s
done when it is thick enough to coat a metal spoon.
cup butter, melted
cup boiling water
tablespoons of lemon juice
teaspoon of salt
of cayenne pepper
of a double boiler, beat egg yolks with a wire whisk until
add the butter, a little at a time, beating thoroughly after
add water, again beating thoroughly with the wire whisk.
Place top of double boiler over simmering water in base.
(Water should not touch the top pan.) Cook over simmering
water, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Do not
overcook as sauce will curdle.
beat in lemon juice, salt and pepper.
over the cooked asparagus.
4 to 6.
Adapted from McCall’s Cooking School, McCall’s
ASPARAGUS WITH PARMESAN
often said that less is more, and fresh asparagus proves the
point. In this bare bones recipe, asparagus gets seasoned
with salt, pepper and cheese, and yields a delectable
pounds of white and green asparagus
tablespoon olive oil
salt and ground pepper, to taste
cup of Parmesan-Romano cheese
oven to 450 degrees. Prepare asparagus by trimming tough
stalks and removing ends.
rimmed baking sheet, toss asparagus with olive oil; season
with coarse salt and ground pepper.
in an even layer. Sprinkle with cheese.
until asparagus is tender and cheese is melted, 10 to 15