Getting to Know White Asparagus

Spargel! Getting to Know White Asparagus

When it comes to food, good things often come from Europe. Every now and again, though, strange things can filter over from the continent. This is the case with white asparagus. Though it is related to the green asparagus we are all familiar with in the United States, white asparagus lacks the bright green color we associate with these thin, fibrous stalks. Though you might not find the white variety in your local farmers market here in the States, this European delicacy is growing increasingly popular in America.

What is Special About White Asparagus?

Unlike many other vegetables that come in different varieties, white and green varieties of asparagus are the same plant, with the only difference being how they are grown. Unlike its green cousin, white asparagus is grown underground and under the cover of plastic to prevent sunlight from hitting the stalks as they grow. This prevents them from developing chlorophyll as they undergo the natural photosynthesis that happens in most plants when they are exposed to sunlight.

What is the Difference Between White Asparagus and Green?

What separates white and green asparagus stalks from one another turns out to be very little indeed. Aside from a slightly bitter, more delicate flavor, fresh white asparagus is not really different from its green counterpart. Don’t tell that to the Germans, though. Known locally as spargel, white asparagus is considered to be a delicacy in Germany and Switzerland. This veggie is so popular that local festivals, known as Spargelfests, are held to celebrate it.

Here in the States, home cooks looking to make a splash with white asparagus may find it harder to come by, and will usually find that it is more expensive than green asparagus. The extra work involved in unearthing and harvesting white asparagus, which must be done by hand, drives the price higher than the usual cost of green asparagus. Despite this hindrance, white asparagus is becoming more and more common in the United States.

How do You Cook White Asparagus?

If adventurous home cooks are looking to swap traditional green for fresh white asparagus in their recipes, a few small accommodations will need to be taken. White asparagus spears are more fibrous and require peeling the outer layer from the bottom two thirds of the stalk with a vegetable peeler before being eaten. As they are grown in dirt, they may also need a little more thorough washing.

Aside from washing and peeling, white asparagus can be sauteed, baked, or roasted in any way you might prepare green asparagus spears. Some of the simplest preparations involve roasting or sauteing white asparagus stalks with a little lemon juice and melted butter or olive oil just like their green counterparts. This doesn’t mean there aren’t specific dishes featuring this pale vegetable, though. White asparagus soup is a unique dish that highlights the flavor and color of this less common variety of asparagus.

Regardless of the color, asparagus is not one of the longest-lasting veggies in your fridge, and fresh white asparagus should be used within a few days of purchasing it. Wrapping it in a damp paper towel to keep it moist can help it last a little longer, but ultimately these veggies are not as well suited to fridge shelves as some others.

How Healthy is White Asparagus

Nutritional value of these white veggies stacks up well against the green spears you are more likely to find on your grocery store shelves. Despite being hidden from the sun, white asparagus spears are a great source of many important vitamins and minerals, including:

  • potassium
  • vitamin A
  • calcium
  • vitamin B
  • iron
  • niacin
  • dietary fiber

Regardless of the color, asparagus is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, putting it in the company of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale as extremely nutritious vegetables that you should probably get on your plate, or into your recipes, whenever possible.

White Asparagus in Food Production

Unless you are in Germany, you are not likely to find white asparagus hanging about in your local grocery store. This doesn’t mean, though, that it might not be hiding in plain sight in many products you already buy. In industrial food production, every aspect of an ingredient matters. The nutrition of asparagus might be desired, but the green color may not. On these occasions, white asparagus powder can be added to soups and other foods to add a little nutritional punch without adding unwelcome color.

You may not be ready to host your own Spargelfest, but adding white asparagus to your menu or your ingredient list could add a little unexpected interest where regular green asparagus might not capture the attention of consumers. This is why Silva offers white asparagus powder along with regular green asparagus in our long product list.

Making sure you have the exact ingredients you need is one of the many benefits of partnering with Silva. Alongside our dedication to quality in our processing and procurement, we work hard to ensure you have the widest possible variety of fruits, herbs and spices, vegetables, and mushrooms to give you the flexibility you need to make the products that will help you succeed. If you are ready to see what Silva can do for your product line, contact a member of our customer relationship team today.