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White Asparagus
gourmet articles white asparagus
Asparagus a genus of the Liliacae or Lily family has some 150 species; both ornamental & edible. The lily family includes such plants as onions, garlic, leeks, lilies tulips, hyacinths and gladioli.

We know that asparagus is a good source of vitamins A & C and of the minerals potassium and phosphorous. Beautiful and delicious asparagus is also low in calories when left alone.
As early as 200 BC Romans began to cultivate asparagus and had detailed garden instructions that would still be useful today. The Romans not only ate asparagus "in season" but dried it for later use. It was simply and quickly prepared by boiling the dried roots. Aristotle and Nero knew of asparagus as they called it and it graced the tables of nobility and commoners alike.

By the time of the Renaissance the growing beds of Northern Italy were famous. The asparagus of Ravenna (NE of Florence) were well known to easily weigh on at a pound for three stalks. Louis XIV of France gave land and had his gardeners provide the monarch asparagus year around. He did so by building "Store House" and heating the glass greenhouse. It wasn't long after this that the Germans began producing white asparagus. And considered delicacy in many parts of the world. For over two hundred years the Germans have mastered the technique of growing asparagus in rounded rows which eliminate any sunlight from reaching the tender stalks. Once the sunlight is removed the plants will not produce chlorophyll which gives all plants their green color and with asparagus its unique strong favor. Lacking the sunlight and chlorophyll the spears developed a milder favor and there was an increase in the sugar content. Its earthy flavor was desired by people throughout Europe. Unfortunately as it grew with in the earthen mounds the soils gave a bitter taste to the spears and it is usually peeled to remove this undesirable characteristic.

The time of Spargel in Germany generally runs from April to May and is a rite of spring which people long each year.Here on our farm Blue Valley Gardens we first started to grow green asparagus in 1988. I Had always been interested in white asparagus but was generally turned off due to its very high labor required to pick each spear out of the earthen mounds.

I happened to connect with a professor in Arkansas who was constructing black plastic row covers directly over the asparagus rows supported with heavy bracing wire hoops. The black plastic kept the sunlight out and thus eliminating the chlorophyll and turning the spears creamy white. We experimented several years using this technique with limited success. Labor was still high for each row must be uncovered and covered back up to maintain darkness required to keep the spears white. Still using the hoops directly over the row and numerous used tires to weigh down the sheets we were able to cover an acre of asparagus. Our labor was greatly reduced using this procedure. For we can now easily remove the four large sheets and then easily pick the entire acre and recover the field in less than two hours. On windy and rainy days we do have some problems but overall we are generally satisfied with our new methods to produce our own version of Wisconsin Spargel. We find that the spears do not have to be peeled for they don't have the bitter taste associated with the growing up in the earthen mounds. We hand snap all our spears so there is practically no waste with our picked asparagus. Our white asparagus is in great demand from the general public, restaurants and hotels. We are going to double our production next year. You can see us at the Dane County Farms Market which is located around the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturdays. Our asparagus runs from the end of April and usually to the end of June.

For further information on Matthew Smith's white and green asparagus contact his farm directly:

Blue Valley Gardens Proud producers of fine asparagus since 1984.
2954 North Road
Blue Mounds WI
phone: 608-437-3272

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