What is white asparagus, and how does its taste compare to green asparagus?
White asparagus is simply green asparagus that has never seen the light of day. The plant is grown under soil or some other covering to block out the sun’s rays, preventing photosynthesis and the development of chlorophyll, which turns the spears green. Europeans prize locally grown white asparagus as a springtime delicacy, but since there are no domestic producers in the U.S., the great majority of white asparagus available in supermarkets is imported from Peru. When we pan-roasted Peruvian white asparagus and green asparagus and sampled them side by side, tasters dubbed the green spears “vegetal,” “sweet,” and “grassy,” with a “slightly mineral” aftertaste. The white spears had a less pronounced flavor, reminding tasters of “a cross between peas and turnips.” Overall, the white spears didn’t wow us, presumably because their delicate flavor had faded during shipping and storage.
If we have the opportunity to try freshly picked white asparagus, we won’t hesitate. As for the usual supermarket offerings, with a price difference of at least $2 per pound (we paid $3.99 per pound for green and $5.99 per pound for white), we’ll stick with the green stuff.