11 June 2013

Asperges vertes

We found something unusual the other day in the Grand Frais supermarket outside Blois: green asparagus. All the locally grown asparagus on the markets and in the supermarkets around Saint-Aignan is white.

I guess those of you who live in the U.S. or the U.K. are used to getting green asparagus in your markets, but it's a special treat here. Actually, it's the same plant as the white variety; it's just grown differently. Friends who live down the road tell me they drive to Blois to get green asparagus, because they prefer it to the white spears.

Green asparagus from Italy

One major difference between green and white asparagus spears is that the white ones need to be peeled — a vegetable peeler or économe does the job — before they are cooked. Their skin is tough and fibrous. Green asparagus spears don't need peeling.

We cooked some green asparagus with shrimp...

There is a brand of green asparagus called Chambord, after the château near Blois. According to the producers' web site, they started growing green asparagus in the late 1980s and formed a cooperative. Green asparagus was barely known in France back then. They are calling it "the new asparagus."

...and served it with Japanese udon noodles.

Never mind that the green asparagus we bought was grown in Italy. Grand Frais specializes in importing produce from abroad. I assume the Italian spears are less expensive than the local ones — these were less than six euros per kilogram. We've been paying slightly more than that for the white asparagus grown around Saint-Aignan.


  1. Green asparagus is creeping in to the markets here. The strawberry and asparagus lady at Loches is down to €2.50/kg for thin green spears now. One of the producers from around Villandry told me they have a sort vending machine at their front gate for the asparagus, and now grow both colours. I presume it's the result of all us anglos telling them we prefer the green, plus it's less work for both cook and grower.

  2. We are getting green for 3€ a kilo at the moment...
    if you are there early enough...
    too many of us Brits around here...
    and our boucherie uses them for the Terrine de Poule aux Asperges...
    a wonderful concoction of white meat, clear stock jellied with aspic layered with sparrow-grass spears...
    and with a slab of chicken liver paté in the middle...
    that is very rarely to be seen in the shop on a second day!!

  3. We ate out for lunch yesterday and I had a bundle of white asparagus with one stick of green. There was a noticeable difference in flavour, the green one having much more asparagussy flavour I thought.

    We don't eat a lot of it as it's usually so expensive in the UK and when it's reduced it's usually past its best. I also don't often buy anything that's been shipped half way round the world, preferring to buy UK or at least European fruit and veg. A lot of the asparagus on offer in UK supermarkets comes from South America.

  4. Hi Jean, I agree with you about green asparagus having a stronger, grassier flavor than white, which is much milder. I'm sure that's why it it preferred in France. The green asparagus can also get a little slimy when cooked (and I'm one who loves okra). I agree with you about buying locally too. I know I've seen green asparagus from South America in markets in Paris. I bought it at Grand Frais because it's a novelty, and despite my opposition to all produce that has a gigantic carbon footprint. In fact I prefer the white variety of asparagus grown here.

    Susan, I think the wider availability of green asparagus here in the Loire Valley probably does have to do with tourists from other countries being so plentiful. It's what they expect. As for the price, well, French people probably don't buy it much so it costs less than the "normal" white spears.

    Tim, you Brits do seem to have invaded the Sud Touraine in a big way. Is asparagus a traditional crop down there? It is traditional here in the sandy soil of the Sologne, and a lot of white asparagus is grown and eaten here — but no green to speak of.

  5. I've never seen white asparagus. You call those things shrimps and I recall Crocodile Dundee did too, but we know them as prawns.

  6. Your udon dish looks delicious. Noodles from Paris Store in Tours?

  7. Oooh, little chunks of fresh, green asparagus with shrimp... always a winner! I have both in the fridge today, waiting for tonight's meal :)

  8. Andrew, we call them "shrimp" without an S. Prawns are bigger. Dublin Bay prawns are, I think, what they call langoustines in France, and they're more like miniature lobsters. Meanwhile, white asparagus spears are the rule here, and the green ones are very unusual. C'est un autre monde.

    Dean, the udon probably came from Paris Store in Tours, or from Asia Store in Blois.

    Judy, go for it, and enjoy.

  9. Ken, are you seasoning the noodles or using a sauce? I, too, have frozen shrimp to use, but asparagus is no longer in season here. I could bite the bullet and pay a little more. I place the spears in boiling water in a flat-bottomed saucepan for only 4-6 min. and then serve immediately = not slimy here!
    Your dish looks like dinner tonight for me! Merci!

    1. Mary, I just used soy sauce and sesame oil as seasonings, plus some crushed red pepper on the shrimp when I stir-fried them.

  10. Ken, there is a huge asperge farm just the other side of Descartes from us... she comes and sells Green and White sparrow-grass on our Thursday market... and Strawberries as well.
    Also, recently, they've expanded the range of veg that they do, too.
    All local summer produce.

    The soil the other side of Descartes from us is very, very sandy.

    And to avoid slimy asparrowgrass... we steam them for 15 to 20 mins depending on the thickness of the spear... if we get really thin sprues... ten mins!
    Melt the butter in the microwave.

  11. Love asparagus. And I love your new header photo!

  12. Just like Starman, I love asparagus. And I love your new header photo!

  13. Asparagus can be found growing along ditches here in Michigan, as long as you have a sharp eye and aren't driving too fast.


  14. Craig, green asparagus spears grow all around and in the vineyard here too. Most years we pick some in the spring and enjoy eating them, but this year it was too rainy and the spears bolted very quickly.

    Thanks, CHM and Starman.

  15. How fantastic people can get Asparagus for 2.50 or 3 euro a kilo , I would be eating it every day at that price. I have never tried or seen white here in the uk. I do spend a little bit more on the very fine asparagus for cooking , I saw some today and the stems were so thick :-(

    1. Anne, I think thick is better than thin when it comes to asparagus spears. Thick spears might need peeling, but they are tender inside.

  16. Hi Ken , I never knew that, ah so learnt something, will give the thick stem asparagus a try.. Thanks.


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