Every year, here in Germany, they go wild about spargel. What is spargel? White gold…er, um, I mean white asparagus. Pulled from a protective row of soil, never having seen the light of day, this delectable veggie comes out a pretty cream color. We love it, and we think you will too, so we’re going to tell you how to buy it, prepare it, peel it, cook it, and put it into one fantastic recipe. White asparagus will be forever on your menu, that’s for sure.
Why is White Asparagus or Spargel so Popular?
What is Spargel?
Spargel, or white asparagus, is a little different than its green counterpart, and the Germans are big fans. You know how the green asparagus can have an almost bitter flavor sometimes? You never get that with the white. It’s a milder, more subtle taste, and people of all ages just love it.
How is Spargel Grown?
Instead of growing it above ground, it is grown in large rows, with soil heaped over the plants, then covered with a black plastic. It is usually harvested from mid-April to mid-June, but some years it comes in later, depending on how bad the winter was.
As the season begins, you will see all the restaurants jumping on the spargel wagon, creating entire menus based around this much sought-after veg. The two most traditional ways of serving it is either boiled and served alongside boiled potatoes and ham, sometimes with the Hollandaise sauce, or in Spargel cremesuppe (white asparagus soup), which is by far Jim’s favorite.
Nowadays, however, the chefs are trying to come up with new ways to serve spargel and wrangle your business to their restaurant. The spargel menu usually will have a number of meats or salmon served with the potatoes and white asparagus for a few options. Then they often will have one really new dish to entice you. At one place I had a toast with a chicken breast, ham, cheese, and mustard and cream sauce to top it off. I haven’t been able to find it since…unfortunately.
Pin How to Cook Spargel, then go out and buy some to try this white asparagus recipe.
Where You Can Buy White Asparagus
In Germany as well as many European countries, white asparagus can be bought in any grocery store or local market during the season. However, the very best place to buy them is right at the field where it’s grown.
The farmer or coop will set up a stand and they will sell it right then and there. Most stands will even peel it for you, because it should be done just the right way. We never buy ours peeled, because we may or may not get side-tracked and not make it that night. If you peel it, you need to use it right away.
In the U.S. fresh white asparagus is a bit harder to find, but it’s becoming more and more popular. Most Whole Foods, or other specialty and gourmet grocers will stock white asparagus. When you look at the price tag, you’ll see why I call it “white gold.”
It’s expensive, but as we’ve mentioned, once you’ve had it, it’s easy to get addicted to this luxury vegetable. You can buy a canned version pretty much all year long. We do use that, especially as a pizza topping, but of course you are better off using fresh if you can find it.
How to Prepare White Asparagus (Spargel)
How to Peel Spargel (White Asparagus)
White asparagus has a tougher structure than the green variety. Therefore, you must peel off the outside layer or it just tastes like bark.
- Wash the white asparagus
- Cut off the very bottom of the stalk, at least 3/4 of an inch. Make sure to leave the top intact. (It’s the best part!)
- Take a vegetable peeler, and trim the outer skin.
If you buy spargel at a market stall, many times the vendor will offer to peel it for you. This is a good idea if you plan on cooking it right away, but if you are like us, and it’s going to stay in the fridge until you get a chance to cook, you will want to peel it yourself just before you are ready to cook.
How to Cook Spargel
White asparagus is very hardy. It has to be to thrive under a foot of soil, so it’s imperative to boil it for at least 7-10 minutes (my preference is about 15 minutes) before including it in a recipe.
If you just want to butter it and serve it as a side dish, then you are finished. However, many of my recipes call for it to do more. Once it has been softened, it’s cooked, but you can grill it or bake it a little more if you need to.
Variations of Spargel Dishes
We’ve had white asparagus in so many different ways, from soups to sandwiches, casseroles, and more. It really is versatile. The real trick is not to overpower the subtle taste of it.
German Traditional Schnitzel
Variations of German Schitzel – Schnitzel 12 Ways
Making the Wurst of It – A Lesson in Sausage
Our Brunch Toasted Spargel Recipe
We love a toasted sandwich with a creamy, poached egg on top, so we created this recipe to celebrate during spargel season.
A spring staple in Germany, most restaurants will have a spargel menu. This is our favorite brunch sandwich, because what could be a better way to start your weekend than having farm fresh spargel?
- 4 stalks spargel
- 2 slices ham
- 2 slices Swiss cheese
- One bagel or hard roll
- 1-2 eggs, optional
- Hollandaise Sauce, to taste
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
- Wash and peel spargel (see how above)
- Boil spargel until soft. (5-8 minutes)
- Toast bagel or roll.
- Add ham and cheese. Broil until cheese is melted (about 3 minutes).
- Add eggs, cooked as you desire. I think poached works best, but many people fry or scramble their eggs.
- Cover with Hollandaise Sauce and green onions, to taste.
- Serve immediately.
This can easily be converted to a vegetarian sandwich by either leaving off the ham or substituting another ingredient in its place.
Also, depending on the person the calorie count could be much lower if they reduce the items chosen on the sandwich.
If serving for brunch, it's best to have each guest build their own sandwich, then order the eggs the way they want them cooked while the sandwich is in the broiler.
How to Assemble the Best Spargel Sandwich
The best thing about preparing sandwiches is there is no wrong way to do it. For our brunch, we just had the ingredients ready, and then each guest stacked their own, using the ingredients and amounts they liked.
- Lightly toast your bread
- Add your ham
- Lay complete stalks of white asparagus over ham. (It’s meant to take up more space and hang off the ends.)
- Add cheese
- Grill for about 3 minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt
- Add poached or fried egg
- Cover with Hollandaise Sauce
- Serve immediately and eat.
Some folks didn’t want the eggs, which was fine. The original sandwich we’d had in some cafes just serve it with ham and sauce. It’s good, but in my opinion those eggs push it over the top!
Don’t forget to pin our spargel recipe for later.