Good Food Blog
Asparagus is all whitePosted at 3:07PM, 17 April 2008 by Mary Cadogan - Food writer
For the last couple of weeks, root veggies, cabbage and all those other lovely winter veggies have started to lose their appeal and I have had a yearning for something new to tempt me. So when I strolled up the village this morning to buy my veggies from Thierry, our village fruit and veg man, the arrival of new season's asparagus was thrilling.
No green spears in this region, however. Here in the Charente only white asparagus is grown and you'd have to go as far south as Montpelier to get locally grown green spears. I'd grown up with green asparagus, so my first few attempts at cooking the white were a disaster. What I didn't know (but do now) is that white asparagus takes at least twice as long to cook as green.
My absolute favourite is warm spears dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette then scattered with thinly sliced Spanish ham...
I would steam green spears for 3-5 minutes depending on their thickness, but the white needs a good 10-15 minutes cooking. The taste is also quite different - it has a milder, more delicate flavour, with a hint of nuttiness. The spears also tend to be a bit fatter and chunkier, and it's a good idea to peel them. It is grown under mounds of soil to protect it from the light which would turn it green, and the spears are usually harvested early in the morning before the sun can spoil their milky white colour.
The season is short, running from Mid April until early June. If you want to try white asparagus, the good news is that this year for the first time it is being grown in the UK, and will be available from M&S. Flavour partners include anything nutty, such as walnut or hazelnut oil, truffle shavings and anything salty. I love scattering the warm spears with a few salty little shrimps or crispy lardons. But my absolute favourite is warm spears dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette, then scattered with thinly sliced Spanish ham such as Jamon Serrano, or even better jamon jabugo.