Monday, February 06, 2006

Finding White Asparagus

White Asparagus

When ever I come back from Spain I'm laden down with the usual pork products, the jamons, the chorizo and the blood sausage and a healthy couple of bags of calasparra rice, not to mention some quince paste and saffron. These are the bits that I usually end up sharing with friends and relations, and I have no problem with that. Spread the love, says I. Stashed in the depths are the secret things, the stuff that doesn't get shared. Those choice items that I'll keep to myself and enjoy in those moments when no one else is about, in that hour or so before the girlfriend come home after I've got in from work. Now, you'd be expecting that this would be chocolate or some such. In fact no, it's something all together freakier, something, that when I actually stop to think about it is a bit twisted. White asparagus comes from the process of etiolation, which is the deprivation of light. Dirt is kept mounded around the emerging stalk, depriving it of light. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, thus there is no green color to the stalks and the flavour is something all together different. It's basically the veal of the vegetarian world. Cruel, probably, delicious, yes.
The problem is that obviously these canned treats are heavy and I'm not one for loading up a whole bag and then having those awkward questions at customs. So, when the Spain sourced stash runs out, it's off into London's slightly fractured and dislocated Iberian community to find some more. Now, traditionally that meant Ladbroke Grove and Portobello. The Spaniards settled here during the Civil War, the population made up of refugees and later political exiles as the course of the war turned sour. During those subsequent years of dicatorship, many more left Spain (mostly from poor areas like Galicia and Andalucia) to find work and send money home settling where the republican refugees had seeded communities. In subsequent years those communities where augmented by a slow trickle of Portuguese and these days by swiftly growing communities of Central and South Americans.
Luckily, with proper Spanish food growing in popularity it's getting easier to lay your hands on these pearly white stalks of sweet tender flesh. They demand freshly made mayonnaise, absolutely demand it, and a dash of good sherry vinegar. They taste nothing like green asparagus, they have a delicate sweetness and a yielding quality that melts in the mouth, and you thought steamed asparagus was sexy. Despite all that, they will make your wee smell funny, those canny Spaniards obviously haven't figured a way of ridding them of that particular quality.


Eneko said...

Ey! Are you spaniard? If you are you would like to know, the online comunity for spaniahs people who lives out of Spain.

Enjoy and sorry for the @spam@.

cookiecrumb said...

You can get them fresh, yes? I haven't tried canned...
Oh, boy. Spring is upon us!

Dagny said...

I could have sworn that I saw white asparagus in my local market recently. Then again I could have been suffering from a hangover.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up on this. They sell this in my local supermarket and I live in Guernsey!!

GastroChick said...

I adore white asparagus, its hard to believe they are related to the green variety because as you quite rightly point out they taste completely different. I'm going to spain in a couple of weeks so I'll also have to bring some back.

La said...

The things we take for granted. I can get white asparagus fresh all the time when its in season, yet I've never tried it.

You've definitely convinced me to give it a try next time its available.

David said...

Last time I was in Spain, I got surrounded by machinegun-wielding police at the train station, who asked me to open my overstuffed suitcase (I guess suitcase bombs are normally quite heavy.)
As I opened my suitcase, their eyes widened when they saw neatly tucked and wrapped rectangular packages, all lined up. As they kept their guns aimed and ready (and I was getting a bit nervous), I unwrapped a few of the packages...of turrone and tablets of Spanish chocolate!

We all had a good laugh, whew!