white asparagus



it is one of the world’s food wonders, no question. unbelievably, its season last barely the month of may, even in resourceful germany. omg, schwetzingen, famously known as the place where the white 'spargel’ originated. the french demur. they would. and plausibly so. excepting that their ‘asperge’ is not truly white but lightly pink at the head. which simply means that the asparagus tip has seen the light of day. so very french. it comes down to food aesthetics. memory has it that the ‘rose’ isn’t quite as juicy as the white. hell, i’m in portland and lucky to find white asparagus at all. hush, memory. yes, the white in germany this time of the year is perfection. consistently round, about one inch thick, a foot long, with a head to make a girl blush. ah, and the flavor. makes me blush. but, in portland the choice is no choice at all. the white comes bundled, rangy and squat, pencil thin to bullfrog fat. now, pencil asparagus might be desirably delicious when eating as greens. but in spargel what counts is being plump. bigger, as in a truck, is better. then there’s where it’s grown. the soil. even better the sand. or at least sandy soil. ah, but where are the minerals. and there in lies the difference. the region around schwetzingen claims a special and specific sandy, quartzy soil, from deposits of old river rhine. such soil brings up the fragrance of the whites. asparagus is ninety some percent water. the rest is heaven. bring two pounds of the (german) white to st.peter and the pearly gates open regardless your sins. incidentally, mel brooks wouldn’t have asked ‘what is it about asparagus’, had he had white. perfection ain’t portland, at least not in spargel terms. so you complain and buy what you can and eat, fragrance be dammed, keeping memory at ease. first you peel. as little as possible, as much as needed. no sense in waste, at the same time, stringy might be for beans. then you steam. in a tall glass topped pot, especially designed for the task. glass topped so you can see when the stuff inside wilts. once gently soft the spargel gets rolled in butter. served with crispy potato marbles, prosciutto cotto, and topped with a hard boiled on the soft side. that would be germany. memory’s home. now we do likewise. memory be damned.


and in my kitchen there is yet another way: white asparagus aux beurre noir. the french will have their way. well, sometimes, in portland at least.