Asparagus: some love it, others aren’t so keen. There doesn’t tend to be any grey zone here. Asparagus is sometimes dubbed ‘the vegetable of kings’ or ‘white gold’ – testament to the kind of passion that it can inspire. And it’s also hugely popular due to its short harvesting period. We love asparagus, so we’ve put together some interesting facts for you here, plus some delicious recipes while we’re at it.
It’s a matter of taste! – White, green or purple?
Whatever your preference, the biggest difference isn’t actually the colour. Unlike white asparagus, green asparagus grows above ground. It is only picked when it has grown 20–25cm out of the soil. Once above ground, it soaks up sunlight and turns green. It also has a strong, savoury taste, is peeled in a different way and takes less time to cook than white asparagus. However, green asparagus is suitable for almost all dishes that usually feature white asparagus.
White asparagus is definitely the milder variety. It is picked as soon as the surface of the soil starts to lift slightly. As it never comes into contact with the sunlight, even the tip of the asparagus remains a pristine white.
Purple asparagus is different again: it is picked once it has already pierced through the surface. This means that the tip of the spears enjoy the sunlight and turn purple. In terms of taste, it is barely different from white asparagus, so it is rarely available in Germany, where white asparagus is hugely popular.
The asparagus season is short and snappy, just like the vegetable itself. It begins in late April and is already coming to an end on 24 June, known as ‘Asparagus New Year’. The last asparagus of the year are picked on this day.
Asparagus is very healthy. As it consists of about 93 per cent water, it contains only 20 calories per 100 grams. In addition, asparagus has a cleansing effect, as it contains detoxifying aspartic acid.
Other important substances provided by asparagus include potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamins A, B1, B2, C and E and folic acid (important for blood formation). Due to the sunlight, green asparagus contains even more vitamin C and carotene.
White asparagus must be stored cold and covered. Ideally, if wrapped in a damp cloth and chilled well, fresh asparagus can keep for up to three days. Green asparagus is best kept standing upright in water.
Whether green or white, you should wash asparagus before cooking it in order to remove any remaining sandy residues from the asparagus tips. Green asparagus requires the least effort: you simply peel the bottom third of the spears.
White and purple asparagus must be peeled all the way up to the tip. You should always work from top to bottom when peeling asparagus – i.e. from the tip to the cut end. Be sure to peel it evenly so that you don’t miss any patches! After peeling, cut off any woody ends. The fresher the asparagus, the less you’ll have to cut.
So reach for your asparagus knife and make the most of the season!