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Asparagus ... can you taste the color difference?

Be it green, white or purple I can't seem to really taste the difference when it comes to the different varieties of asparagus.

(I'm told there is also a pink asparagus which I have not seen, nor tasted before -- at least not knowingly.)

I've tried them raw, lightly steamed, stir-fried, cooked to fork tender, and it really doesn't seem to matter. They all taste the same.

Don't get me wrong. I adore asparagus in all of its permutations. I just can't detect a difference in taste between the different color varieties.

I am told that white asparagus has a milder flavor than its green counterpart and that the purple variety is sweeter. True?

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  1. I'm with ya, ipse. I could eat the stuff three times a week but I can' t taste the difference either. It boggled my mind to watch folks in Germany pay 17 or 18 euro for a plate of steamed fat white asparagus in beurre blanc, and slice it with such care and absolutely roll their eyes back in their heads with pleasure as they ate it! :) Ah well! To each his own.

    3 Replies
    1. re: LauraGrace

      I find there is a significant difference between the taste of fine green English asparagus and the fat white stuff. And I don't get the attraction of the latter covered in sauce either.

      1. re: LauraGrace

        German white asparagus is also known as white gold. The flavor is unique, and you won't get anything even close to that outside Germany. So really, it's no wonder people outside of Germany wouldn't know or care for the difference.

        FWIW, I made the mistake of buying white asparagus in the US once. Blah. Basically flavorless. Never again, I take my German season, as short as it is, and dream of the white stalks the rest of the year.

        No need to drown quality asparagus in sauce either. A bit of drawn butter, some chopped fresh parsley, and served with German-style smoked ham and new potatoes. Heaven on a plate.

        Must be in my genes '-P

      2. It's too bad that you are one of the unfortunate people who are unable to appreciate the unique flavors of the green and white asparagus. Obviously as you point out many do pay a premium for the taste experience of white asparagus in Europe. Unfortunately asparagus of that quality is seldom available in Canada or Mexico. Trying to avoid being vulgar there is a chemical in asparagus which is present in the odor of the urine of the diner that is barely detected by 50% of people and strongly detected by half of that group. This may be related to the taste sensation.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mexivilla

          Only detected by 50% of those who consume it ? Interesting.

          Explained --> http://www.chow.com/stories/10415

        2. yes, absolutely. green and purple have a pronounced bitterness (high chlorophyll content). white is mild and most exquisite.

          i like them all (any way it's cooked but never to a pulp).

          1. Well, I'm going to do a blind taste test this weekend.

            Got some green and white, now I just have to find a source for purple. But even without the latter I'm going to see if I can discern a taste difference between green and white blindfolded.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Be aware, if you are not already, that white asparagus is prepared differently than green or purple. It needs to be peeled, among other things. Read up first if you're not familiar with the prep differences.

              1. re: Karl S

                Yes, I know. But thanks for the tip anyhow.

            2. I have a sense that white is milder in flavour but as we never see it in the UK, I've never been able directly taste it against our usual green. I've never heard of the purple.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Harters

                I've never had white asparagus in Europe; the white I've had in the states has been stringy, with no flavor difference.

              2. No, I can't, but I really don'tlike the look of the white much so I never buy it.

                1. White asparagus = divine. I'd take it over green anyday.

                  1. I had white domestic US asparagus for the first time a couple months ago. It was awful. But I was warned it would not be what white asparagus was all about.

                    1. Add me to those who think there's an enormous difference between white and green. Green is one of my favorite vegetables, but I truly detest U.S. domestic white. It has a funky, acrid flavor, which I think is complemented by the chlorofyll in green. I'm not alone in this -- I remember a snarky blog post from Bittman where he basically said the only way he could tolerate it was peeled to the inner core alone, cooked to death, then covered with sauce that drowned the taste.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: dmd_kc

                        Bittman should come to Germany and have it there. It will blow his mind.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          no! more for us! ;)

                          i already see spargel at the market but i resist. the official season hasn't started yet.

                          be still mein herz! :D

                          1. re: Pata_Negra

                            Grrr. I have to wait another .... 6 weeks. But then I'll still have a good month and a half left to OD on my spargel. Can't. Hardly. Wait.

                          2. re: linguafood

                            I'm going to have to try it in Gemany, indeed. That's what a friend of mine who used to live there tells me as well -- the American varieties aren't even from the same planet.

                        2. Wow- I was at Costco yesterday and for the first tie in my life I saw fresh white asparagus there. I was amazed. But I bought the green asparagus.

                          1. I've only had white asparagus once in my life so far, and it was alongside green asparagus. The difference was certainly noticeable. I've never tried purple asparagus though...

                            1. I have a local farm that grows great asparagus. Once year I was telling an old college friend about it-'Jay, it's got great aroma, sticky buds, great taste'. And he says 'remember when we talked about pot like that?'

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: johnlockedema

                                "Sticky buds" on asparagus? I'd leave that for the pot, I think.

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  When you get them right out of the soil they have a certain stickyness.

                                  1. re: johnlockedema

                                    I see. Never having grown either, I didn't know that. I'm too old to be harvesting asparagi, anyway. Not good for the back '-)

                              2. A quick reply...I was in Germany once for the spargel season and ate pounds and pounds...they were great but I admit it was often the wonderful sauce that sent me to the moon...However I had white aparagus at Bar Pinxto in Santa Monica last week for a reasonable 5 dollars and they were an exact replica of the taste I remember from Germany....definitely a lighter and for me more patable taste. I enjoy them more than the intense green and I have never had the purple.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Robhungry1

                                  Purple is like green, just as with purple/green broccoli and string beans, et cet. And you loose the color upon cooking.