White Asparagus with Butter Vinaigrette
This simple side dish of White Asparagus with Butter Vinaigrette celebrates a delicate vegetable that is only available for just 3 months in a year. Get the recipe below.
What is white asparagus?
White asparagus is unique for two reasons: (1) it’s pale yellow, almost white flesh; and (2) it’s delicate flavour. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a different variety of asparagus but it’s actually just green asparagus that has been kept from turning green!
To keep it from turning green farmers cover the asparagus with mulch before it sprouts from the ground. This keeps out the light, turning off photosynthesis, and the result is a milder tasting vegetable that is paler in colour. It’s a similar principle to forced rhubarb that is also grown in dark conditions.
In Germany (and Austria) they adore white asparagus and celebrate the short season by eating tons of the stuff. They even have festivals dedicated to the vegetable, which they call spargel. And, these festivals include events like the fastest spargel peeler contests!
Lower Saxony and Baden-Wurttemberg are two of the most famous white asparagus growing regions in Germany but we grow it here in the UK too!
When is white asparagus in season?
There’s an old saying used by farmers to identify the white asparagus season: “when cherries are red, spargel is dead”.
If you prefer to go by dates than the colour of cherries, you will begin to find white asparagus at farmers markets from mid-April, up until the end of June 24th. The season is said to finish precisely on the 24th of June which is St. John’s day.
During these 3 short months, Germans consume approximately 70,000 tons!!! It’s about time the rest of us caught up and ate our fair share!
Where can you buy white asparagus?
White asparagus isn’t all that common in UK supermarkets but some do sell it. Good farmers markets may also sell it. If in doubt, Farmdrop usually has some for sale late Spring.
The link to Farmdrop is a referral link, if you place an order I may receive a commission.
How to cook white asparagus
Preparing white asparagus starts by removing any woody stems. You can do this by bending and snapping them at the natural break point or cutting an inch or so off of the bottom. Because of the way that it is grown, white asparagus has a thicker skin than green asparagus. This means that it also needs peeling before cooking, otherwise it can be a little tough and stringy to eat.
Once woody stems and tough outer skins have been removed, the asparagus can be cooked. Popular methods include steaming, roasting and grilling. It’s also not uncommon to find it pickled in jars to make it last longer.
The most traditional way of cooking white asparagus is in water, butter, lemon juice and salt. The butter is melted and mixed with the water, lemon and salt and then brought to a simmer, gently cooking the asparagus. I’ve added my own spin on this traditional cooking method in this recipe for White Asparagus with Butter Vinaigrette.
How long you cook the asparagus will depend on how thick the spears are. It could take anywhere from 10-15 minutes. The asparagus photographed took just under 20 minutes before it was nice and tender.
In Germany and Austria white asparagus is traditionally served with ham and potatoes, pancakes, steak or Schnitzel.
It would also taste fantastic alongside grilled chicken or fish. The choice is yours!
White Asparagus with Butter Vinaigrette
- 250 grams white asparagus
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1.5 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 2 tbsp parsley chopped
- Trim the woody ends of the asparagus either by cutting about 1 inch from the tough ends of the asparagus spears using a sharp knife or by bending them and snapping at the natural break point.
- Next, peel about 2/3 of each spear below the floret using a vegetable peeler, being careful not to break the asparagus.
- Melt the butter in a pan then add roughly 2 inches of water and a salt and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 5-10 minutes or longer until the asparagus is tender.
- Add the mustard, lemon juice and vinegar to the pan and swirl to mix. Cook for a further 5 minutes before turning off the heat and letting it drop in temperature until the asparagus is just warm.
- Sprinkle over the chopped parsley and serve.
Make it vegan
This recipe works really well with plant-based butter. My favourite is Flora but I’ve made this with a range of brands and all work well.
More asparagus recipes
This is the first white asparagus recipe to feature on the blog, but why not try one of these other recipes that is made using asparagus.
If you enjoy eating seasonally as much as I do, check out my seasonal archives. Simply select spring, summer, autumn or winter to find recipes that are made with the best produce available during those months.