White asparagus is the same botanical variety as green asparagus. Green asparagus grows above ground, where chlorophyll forms in the sunlight to create the green color. To produce the white variety, farmers form mounds of soil above the ripening spears. The deprivation of sunlight keeps the vegetable colorless. White asparagus tastes similar to the green variety, but the flavor is slightly more delicate and the texture a bit smoother. Blanched white asparagus is full of flavor and still slightly crunchy.
Things You'll Need
Trim the the woody ends off of the asparagus. Hold one asparagus spear on either end, then bend it until it snaps naturally right above the rough end. Discard the woody end. Repeat for all spears or use a sharp knife to trim the remaining spears. Use a knife only if they are uniform in size. Line up all of the spears on a cutting board, using the snapped piece as a guide to cut the remaining spear ends.
Peel white asparagus before cooking, as their outer texture is often tough and stringy. Place one stalk flat on your cutting board, with the tip facing you. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to gently peel off just the outer layer, starting just below the textured tip. Rotate the stalk as you peel, until the spear is peeled all the way around, Repeat with all stalks.
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Use enough water in the bowl and pot to completely submerge all of the asparagus.
Add seasonings, such as salt, lemon and sugar, to the boiling water, if desired. Add the asparagus to the water. Cook it until it is slightly tender, but still crisp. Check after three minutes, keeping in mind that the cooking time will vary depending on the size of the stalks. Cook for three to eight minutes. Keep the cooking time short if you will continue cooking it in a recipe, such as for a stir-fry or pasta.
Use tongs to carefully transfer the asparagus to the ice bath. Make sure that all of the spears are completely submerged. Allow the spears to chill in the ice water for about as long as it cooked, or until cool.
Transfer the chilled asparagus to a plate that has been lined with paper towels. Serve plain or add to your favorite recipe.
Use white, green and purple asparagus interchangeably in recipes.
High quality white asparagus can be difficult to find in the United States and is usually imported. You may find it seasonally in specialty groceries, from about the middle of April to the end of May.
Look for tight, dry tips and firm stalks when purchasing asparagus.
Serve blanched asparagus as a side dish, drizzled with olive oil, vinegar, crushed garlic, salt and pepper.
Follow the same blanching technique for other vegetables, such as carrots, green beans, peas and broccoli.
References and ResourcesUniversity of Arkansas: Division of Agriculture: Plant of the Week Blanched Asparagus
Saveur: Preparing Fresh White Asparagus
Lauren Groveman's Kitchen: Asparagus
Feenie's: Brunch-Lunch-Dinner; Rob Feenie