It’s been called the ‘vegetable of kings,’ ‘edible ivory,’ or simply ‘white gold.’ It’s white asparagus (weisse spargel). Germans have a veritable passion for the spring vegetable during its short growing season and we were fortunate enough to get some at our market.
Legend has it that the plant was introduced to Germany some 2,000 years ago by the Romans, who prized asparagus as a delicacy and even an aphrodisiac. By the 1700s, it was being cultivated in monasteries and courtly gardens in Germany.
What’s the difference?
White and green asparagus are essentially the same species, with the plant grown under different conditions. In order to achieve the pure white spears demanded by German consumers, certain varieties of asparagus are grown underground under piles of dirt called hillings. This way, the production of chlorophyll is inhibited and the spears don’t turn green.
Unlike green asparagus, white asparagus should be peeled before it is cooked. In Germany, it is traditionally boiled and then served with a variety of side-dishes, ranging from potatoes pancakes, Schinken (smoked ham), Schnitzel or smoked salmon.
The health benefits of white asparagus:
White asparagus is known for its cleansing effects. Until recently is was more popular for its medicinal benefits than its quality and flavor. It’s not uncommon to drink the broth from boiled asparagus for its diuretic qualities.
White asparagus grows for a limited time in the Spring and is a staple of German cuisine. White asparagus is a true delight that we’re excited to share with you!
White Asparagus Cream Soup
- 1/2 c. chopped onion (1 small)
- 2 T. butter
- 1 1/2 -2 lb. white asparagus, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces, heads reserved
- 6 c. broth, either chicken or vegetable
- 1/2 c. half and half cream
- Salt, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Dry white wine, to taste
- Parsley for garnishMake sure you peel white asparagus before you chop it into small pieces. Here is a method for prepping white asparagus.
Sauté the onion in the butter until 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.
Purée 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 to pan.
Bring to a simmer and add the reserved asparagus heads. Cook at least 5 minutes, or until they are fork-tender. Turn down the heat and add the cream. Do not boil further.
Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper as needed. You may also want to add a few spoonfuls of white wine, if you think the soup needs acidity. Garnish with parsley.