White asparagus is so loved in Europe that its fleeting appearance in the spring is a cause for celebration -- and rushing to the farmers market or grocery store to make sure you get a few bunches before they're gone.
But what is the difference between white and the more common green asparagus? White asparagus has a milder flavor, is more tender and is grown underground. Since white asparagus does not get any light, it does not produce chlorophyll, and that is why it is not green -- and also why it is more tender.
An interesting way to use this treasured vegetable is in white asparagus soup -- or "spargelsuppe" in German. This white asparagus soup is made from pureed white asparagus and broth with some cream added. The heads of the asparagus spears are held back until the last minutes of cooking. They add a sense of luxury to the soup -- after all, the heads are the best part of the asparagus.
You must peel white asparagus before you chop it into small pieces. Here is a method for prepping white asparagus.
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds white asparagus, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces, heads reserved
- 6 cups broth, either chicken or vegetable
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- Salt to taste
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- Dry white wine to taste
- Saute the onion in the butter until it's soft in the bottom of a 4-quart saucepan.
- Add the pieces of asparagus (minus the heads) and steam for 5 minutes.
- Add the broth and boil gently for about 30 minutes or until the asparagus is very soft.
- Puree the soup in batches in the blender (place a towel over the lid and hold down the lid so the hot soup does not splatter) or with a hand blender and return the soup to the pan.
- Bring the soup to a simmer and add the reserved asparagus heads.
- Cook at least 5 minutes or until the asparagus heads are fork-tender.
- Turn down the heat and add the half-and-half. Do not boil.
- Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper as needed.
- Add a few spoonfuls of white wine if you think the soup needs acidity.
- Garnish with parsley.
Serve this delicious and mild-flavored soup with slices of Gruyere, Gouda or cheddar cheese and warmed French or sourdough bread. If you've used white wine in the recipe and it's drinkable, bring it to the table. If it's just for cooking, open a bottle of pinot grigio, Albarino, Chablis, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay or riesling and have yourself a simple but elegant meal.