White Asparagus

Hard work builds character, if not in adolescents, than at least
in asparagus. White asparagus, prized all over Europe for its
delicate flavor and tenderness, is also one of the most
labor-intensive crops. Genetically indistinguishable from the green
variety, white asparagus is grown without any exposure to sunlight,
so the green-tinting chlorophyll never has the chance to develop.
Traditionally, this has meant farmers carefully mound soil around
each individual spear as it grows, a task that must be done daily
to keep the emerging tips from coloring. Etiolation is the fancy
word for it (ee·tee·o·lay·shun).

Today, most growers have engineered an easier way of keeping the
spears in the dark: The asparagus are simply grown under a black
cover that keeps the light from getting in. Whether or not this
affects the flavor is up for debate, but one thing is certain:
White asparagus is only available for about 10 weeks out of the
year, between April and June, so now’s your chance.

White Asparagus Salad with Parmesan Serves 2 1
bunch white asparagus 1 T. vinegar (whatever kind you fancy) 1
clove garlic, minced 1 small shallot, minced 1 sprig fresh
tarragon, chopped 3 T. olive oil Salt and pepper to taste 3 cups
mixed spring greens Parmesan

Rinse asparagus, trim or snap off the base, and using a
vegetable peeler, peel all the skin off of each spear. Place
asparagus in a large, shallow pan, sprinkle with salt, and add
enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and simmer gently until
just tender, about 7-10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to
stop cooking. Bring asparagus to room temperature. Whisk together
vinegar, garlic, shallot, and tarragon in a small bowl, then
drizzle in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Season with salt
and pepper to taste. Divide greens between two plates. Toss
asparagus in half the dressing, place over greens, and drizzle with
as much remaining dressing as desired. Shave parmesan over
salad.

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