White asparagus is sometimes known as “edible ivory” or the “royal vegetable” and is a prized and expensive type of asparagus.
White asparagus is so called because of its pale colour which comes from it being grown entirely underground and therefore not developing the chlorophyll and green colour that asparagus that is subjected to sunlight gets.
In the UK, white asparagus is grown in Worcestershire in the Evesham Vale area. However, most of the world’s white asparagus is grown in France and Germany.
White asparagus is available to buy and grow in the UK.
Asparagus is commonly eaten roasted or pan fried in butter with a sprinkle of salt and served as a side dish to a meal.
It can be eaten raw if sliced thinly although it is tastier and more tender when cooked. It is a popular vegetable due to having high levels of nutrients and no fat content.
Where Can You Buy White Asparagus?
White asparagus can be hard to find due to its labour-intensive growing process and limited season.
During the asparagus season (late April to late June in the UK), white asparagus can be found at farmers markets and specialist greengrocers.
Previously supermarkets have sold it, but it did not sell well due to its expensive price point.
Is White Asparagus Rare?
As the nickname “edible ivory” suggests, white asparagus is a rare vegetable. It requires a lot of labour to grow it and is only grown in a few limited places in the world.
This along with the fact that the asparagus season is relatively short means that it is a rare commodity.
What Is the Difference Between White Asparagus and Green Asparagus?
White asparagus and green asparagus are the same vegetable. The difference between them comes from how they are grown and how this changes the taste and look of them.
Green asparagus grows in spears above ground and has a tender mild flavour. White asparagus is kept underground with the use of heavy mud and black plastic sheeting.
By stopping the asparagus from having sunlight the chemical chlorophyll, that is responsible for the green colour of plants, is not formed and therefore the asparagus does not gain the green colour of sun-exposed asparagus.
The result of farming the asparagus as white asparagus is that the white asparagus has a more delicate flavour than the green asparagus and has a less greasy feel to it.
When Is the UK White Asparagus Season?
The UK asparagus season runs from April to June, and only one area of the UK—Worcestershire—produces white asparagus. White asparagus it is often imported from France and Germany during these months too.
Why Is White Asparagus Expensive?
Asparagus in general is an expensive vegetable in comparison to many common vegetables. This is partly because asparagus is notoriously time-consuming to grow.
Unlike most fruit and vegetables asparagus does not become ready to eat in its first year of planting, in fact it can take four years before asparagus comes through as edible spears.
White asparagus is not grown very often or in very many places as it requires a lot of effort and labour to keep it underground.
Its rarity and cost of production make it one of the most expensive vegetables and explain why it is considered such a delicacy.
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