Why is….white asparagus white? How does it get that way?

“White asparagus is white because it was always denied light.”

A process called etiolation (ee-tee-uh-lay-shun) is why white asparagus is white. Etiolation means concealing a plant with dirt or other matter during its entire growth process. As you probably remember from middle school science class, plants need light to create chlorophyll, the fluid that  makes them green. As you may have guessed at this point, white asparagus has no chlorophyll.

White asparagus has a different–some say milder–taste than green asparagus. Both have high vitamin and mineral content, but the green has slightly more nutritional value. The white has higher sugar content and consequently, higher calories.

What are some excellent ways to prepare asaparagus, whether it’s white or green?

Here are some ideas:

  • Steam it in a steel colander for about five minutes
  • Roast it on a cookie sheet for 20-minutes at 400 degrees F, then top with butter and lemon juice, sea salt, or grated parmesan cheese
  • Grill with olive oil and lemon juice
  • Boil it in a pot where the spears can stand vertically, with the tips just over the water surface, with some sugar and salt
  • Fry it in oil

NOTE: You may wish to peel your asparagus before cooking and eating it. Peeling is recommended for the white variety, but with the green, it is optional.

To peel an asparagus spear, hold the spear by its floret (tip) with one hand while guiding the vegetable peeler down the stalk with your other hand. For a visual demonstration, see this LookandTaste.com video on Youtube.

Be sure to trim or snap off the very bottom of the asparagus before cooking–it is tough and inedible.