Springtime in the Netherlands means many things to many people. Most famous for it’s bulb growing season. To some it’s the important, short season of white asparagus, which is a quite different experience to green asparagus, locally known as white gold. In German it’s called spargel. Wherever you taste it, and however it’s known locally, white asparagus is distinctly different from it’s green cousin. You can go to the white asparagus festival in Limburg at the end of April or visit a local grower where you can learn about the technique of growing this popular vegetable, and buy some to take home with you.
The ivory spears are much larger and more fleshy with a more delicate flavour, which is distinctively woody. They are prepared differently from green asparagus due to a hard outer skin, which needs to be peeled off before cooking. And they can be served in many different ways. But the most important thing to remember is that white asparagus is only available for a very short time during April and May. So if you are visiting the Netherlands during the spring months, to see the wonderful bulb fields, or visiting one of the many fantastic cities the Netherlands has to offer, make sure you try this spring dish.
Want to be adventurous? Buy a bunch of white asparagus at the local market (you can also buy it ready peeled at most major supermarkets) and make your own dish at home – there are a large range of recipes on the online. Not feeling brave enough? Dine out and eat white asparagus, which is offered as a special feature on many restaurant menus during the month of April and May. Restaurant Dendy (Hooistraat 1, 2514 BM, The Hague) comes well recommended, if you happen to be in The Hague area.
White asparagus is grown by moulding earth around it which protects it from direct sunlight, giving it the ivory white colour. Succulent juicy spears served as a main dish accompanied with ham or smoked salmon and a dressing, or on it’s own with a simple hollandaise. I chose to make my own (I always like a new challenge), and picked white asparagus with serrano ham and chive dressing.
You can eat white asparagus hot or cold, the choice is yours. Just make sure that you prepare it properly. White asparagus needs peeling to remove the tough outer skin and the tough ends should be removed. Use a regular vegetable peeler and the skin comes off quite easily, leaving you with a waxy, slightly shiny set of spears to simmer into submission. It’s a quick and simple meal to make, not requiring any expert skills in the kitchen. My chosen recipe took 30 minutes from start to finish.
As you bite into the firm white flesh, the taste of this white gold is more nutty than it’s green counterpart. Moist and tender with a crunch at the same time, you can imagine why they call this white gold. Paired with chive sauce and serrano ham, the taste combination was a mixture of salty, woody, slightly sweet, tangy, and underneath it all the moist flesh of the white asparagus. Definitely a great combination, leaving the palette fresh and you surprisingly full.
This was the first time I had tried white asparagus, I am a big green asparagus fan. It was delicious, filling, and like a plateful of spring. I will certainly be scouring the internet looking for some more recipes to try.
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