Asparagus – Part One

Asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables. What makes it certainly so special to all asparagus lovers is the fact that it only is available for a short period of time, usually between April and July (let’s ignore the not so great, dry and flavourless species imported from South America all year round). 

According to the different European countries, amateurs will swear on their very own local asparagus species. In France, the precious vegetable usually comes from the regions of Landes, Touraine, Anjou and Nantes. In Germany, asparagus are cultivated around Freiburg, Baden (both in Baden-Württemberg), in Upper Bavaria, in Brandenburg and in Niedersachsen. Swiss eaters prefer their asparagus coming from the Valais, whereas in Italy, the green species is widely eaten.

To get a good asparagus, it needs first of all to be very fresh. The vegetable should look juicy and crunchy, not be dry at the ends and should squeak when you rub them together. Once bought, you can keep them up to three days in the fridge, wrapped in a wet towel.

Often people ask me if I prefer green or white asparagus. I actually couldn’t tell, as for me these are two kinds of vegetables, different in taste, in texture and in their intended use. While I prefer to eat the green variety in risotto, pasta or simply roasted in a good olive oil to accompany a meat or fish, the white version usually represents an entire dish. The version I like the best is a true classic: presented with a sauce hollandaise and boiled potatoes on the side. This dish is all about the quality of your ingredients (asparagus, potatoes and butter) and the right cooking technique. The cooked asparagus must not be overcooked i.e. soggy nor undercooked and still too crunchy. The most difficult step, at least for beginners is to get the perfect sauce hollandaise. But if you actually stick to the recipe, it’s certainly not as daunting as it seems.  Lastly, make sure you present everything on preheated dishes, as nothing can be as frustrating as eating semi-cold asparagus with a cold sauce hollandaise.

If you want it to be quick, you can simply serve your white asparagus with melted butter, fleur the sel and some fresh lemon juice.

If you are interested to know more about asparagus I picked out two culinary radio shows dealing with this great vegetable.

1. “Miam Miam” at RTS, a Swiss show in French.

2. “Gans und Gar” at WDR 5, in German.

Next time, I will write about the perfect preparation as well as give you the classic recipe for sauce hollandaise.


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