The season of asparagus is on us. In Germany it’s practically a religious institution. Spargel is everywhere. They put dollops of hollandaise on top to negate the healthy calories of the green, but what I love most about asparagus season is wandering through the supermarkets of Paris. In France the true delicacy of the asparagus season, is white asparagus. So how is it done? How do you sap the color from asparagus?
It’s simple, you deprive it of light, like in Plato’s cave. That process is called etiolation and it’s supposed to make the stalks weaker. There’s something fabulous about white asparagus, cultivated as it is, under a cover of earth. Its texture and taste are completely different. The season is now – it’s much thicker than a regular stalk of asparagus; more brittle and simply delicious.
So why does it taste so damn good? I have a theory. Imagine you’ve been buried under a mound of earth for the whole winter, and suddenly someone comes and shows you the sun. It brings color to your cheeks and a smile to your face…before of course you are plunged into boiling hot water and served to someone like me. Incidentally be careful of pairing with wine. Asparagus is not great with tannic red or oaked wines – unless of course you slather it with hollandaise. Luckily for those who can’t imagine a meal unaccompanied by wine, Fiona Beckett at Matching Food and Wine – has put together a helpful list of wine and asparagus pairings.