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Does anyone peel aspargus?

We eat a lot of asparagus and I see that a lot of chefs recommend peeling it first. Is it really worth it? It seems to be a PIA the one time I tried it. I stopped after about 3.

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  1. Yup, I sure do! Hate to waste the lovely veg! I have a very nice peeler though, which may make a difference. Fits into my palm; bought it at a restaurant supply. However I could be considered and expert peler given all the vegetables I had to peel as a kid.

    1. I've done it, and I've not done it. Doesn't make that much of a difference to me taste-wise, so I've decided to stop. It's a matter of personal preference, though, because I snap each stalk at it's natural snapping point to ensure that each one is not woody after the cooking process. Try it and decide :)

        1. No. I'm a snapper not a peeler.

          1. I know a lot of people like pencil-thin asparagus. But, I always look for the fattest asparagus stalks I can find. The fatter the better. I think they have more taste. And, I always peel them. You also get more value because your not snapping off half the stalk. Besides, after they're cooked, they look good too.

            1 Reply
            1. re: skippy66

              I snap the asparagus at the natural point. I have asparagus growing in my garden and each year they get fatter and tastier, I may consider peeling them not to waste this delicate vegetable.

            2. I never heard of peeling asparagus until I saw it done on the Food Network. If it will save me from wasting half my asparagus stalk, I'd like to try it. However, I am skeptical, since the fibrous nature of the bottom half of an asparagus stalk seems to pervade the entire stalk, not just the outside surface.

              The technique of breaking off the asparagus at the natural snapping point, and then discarding the bottom portion, mentioned by many posters here, baffles me. It depends on where you grab the asparagus. Of course, it is going to break in the middle, if you bend both ends. I have taste tested the asparagus from this technique and found that you still end up with fibrous stalks. I don't think this technique works very well.

                1. Whether I peel asparagus depends entirely on the asparagus and what I'm going to use it for. Sometimes I peel to extend the edible part when I want very long stems, though this is not always totally successful at getting rid of the fibrous part but it does help. For very young "pencil" asparagus I don't peel. I haven't seen fresh white asparagus in a store for years, or purple for that matter, but when i could get it I never peeled either one. They are both naturally very tender!

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Real white asparagus from Europe has a tough outer skin that is always peeled. Most white asparagus I've seen in North America doesn't compare and is more like our green asparagus where peeling is optional.

                    1. re: mexivilla

                      I'm not sure what you mean by "real" white asparagus. All of the white asparagus I know of is simply the green grown without sunlight. How does your understanding differ? I've had both European and U.S. grown white asparagus. Sometimes, if a little sunlight peeps through, the white will get a pale green tinge to its exterior and may be peeled to remove the color. Is this what you're talking about? Just curious.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        To my understanding, the difference is small, mostly having to do with the process of etiolation, which is the deprivation of light, when growing white asparagus. There's a bit of a different flavor, the white being milder and a bit more tender, the green has a more pronounced aroma and is a little sweeter. It may come down to various growing or storing methods, aside from etiolation, that cause the European grown white asparagus to have a tougher stalk and need peeling, as opposed to US grown white. The white is preferred over green in some European countries.

                        1. re: bushwickgirl


                          I don't know if it is the luck of mine. I notice my white asparagus (before cooking) easily get snapped compared to my green asparaguys. Is that the norm?

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Nah, you're just a lucky guy!

                            Seriously, I don't know...could be a variety of reasons, freshness, the thickness of the stalk and the outer cellulose layer; I think that white asparagus is actually generally easier to snap, and less flexible that green, IIRC.

                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                              I never peel asparagus. I like all sizes, but the thickest ones are my favorites. I always snap off the bottoms. The trick is to steam them, but stop while they are still crisp. There are never any fibers. Once it starts to soften, it can get stringy. White asparagus is a different story. I don't like it at all, but my son does, so I buy it for him sometimes. The white asparagus that we see in supermarkets is not done the traditional European way. According to my parents, soil would constantly be piled on to the stalks as they grew, keeping them white. They were basically blanched, but normal, asparagus. The stuff we see in the markets, almost invariably from Peru, is from stalks that haven't emerged yet. They dig underground to get them. They have only started to grow, and they are very woody...and to me, they also taste like wood. Phenolic, I guess. They have to be peeled, otherwise they are inedible.

                          2. re: bushwickgirl

                            To simplify "etiolation," it is the process of a seedling trying to reach light when light is denied. When plants are deprived of light, whether because they took root under a deep pile of leaves on a forest floor or because man deprived them of light, they will grow long (and sooner or later weak) shoots that are just trying to reach light so the seed/plant's development can move on to its subsequent stages. But this does not compel a tough skin that requires peeling. "Shoots" are, by definition, tender. So my question to mexivilla is whether s/he is positive that "European" grown white asparagus is peeled because the outer layer is tough, or if it is peeled because it has been allowed a minimal amount of light to impede it's length (shoots slow their search once they find even a little light and further plant transition begins to take place. like developing the cells and skill to use photosynthesis) and are therefore peeled for cosmetic reasons to get down to the very white interior flesh. That's my question. I have never heard of etiolation making a plant tough. But hey, what do I know? I'm just trying to learn something! '-)

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              All that aside, (I'm not dismissing your reseach here, it's interesting, to be sure) the Germans have a spargel peeling festival in April in Nuremberg, so it seems like peeling is the deal, or at least a reason to have a festival and raise a glass. Peeling may be due to a tough outer layer, the desire to get to the tender white interior flesh or just for attractive presentation, or all three. The white asparagus I've seen in Europe was of the fatter stalk variety, as opposed to the pencil thin green I like, and would be something I'd consider peeling, easy to do so because the stalks were fat. The outer layer was fibrous.

                              1. re: bushwickgirl

                                Yes, most white asparagus is thicker than "super market" green asparagus. I've paid truly premium prices for exceptionally thick canned white asparagus.

                                Whether you took the photo or borrowed it from the web, I like the Royal Copenhagen china! It looks like the old Blue Fluted Plain pattern. Lovely. But I'm a blue and white china freak. '-)

                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                  MMMMMMMMmmmmmspargel. Only 4-5 months till the white gold is in season again. Yesssss.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    I was waiting for you to post to this.

                                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                                      I am that transparent, ain't I? tee hee.

                                  2. re: bushwickgirl

                                    It's my impression that in Germany, white asparagus is always peeled.

                                  3. re: Caroline1

                                    The peeling is necessary because of the fibrous outer skin not just for cosmetic reasons. Unfortunately I'm a consumer not an agriculture expert but I'm sure there must be more to the difference between the European variety and that grown in North America.

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      While you're right about etiolation, asparagus aren't seedlings. They are new growths from mature..usually very mature plants. They tend to be extremely woody until they go through rapid growth....which occurs in sunlight.

                                  4. re: Caroline1

                                    I love white asparagus, and was fortunate to be in Germany this spring when it was in season. The white asparagus I've tried in the U.S. has been nothing like what I've eaten in Europe. Simply not worth the trouble of cooking it. Don't know why this should be so; perhaps it's an issue of freshness.

                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      It's actually a question of terroir. I've only bought the white stuff stateside once. Waste o'money.

                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        I've wondered about that, too. I've been in Germany during white asparagus season and I've had them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It just seems to me that the white asparagus we get here is a whole different variety.

                                2. I agree with Skippy66. I like the thicker asparagus and if you just cut the root end off where it starts to be green and the peel the bottom two inches you get much more value. Unless you're feeding a crowd it takes just a few extra minutes at most (3?).

                                  1. In my opinion, the only asparagus that needs peeling is old asparagus, that is, asparagus that was cut a long time ago and held in storage too long. I don't run across that anymore, transportation being what it is. But I live in California. I snap and don't peel.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: jmnewel

                                      White asparagus needs to be peeled, regardless of how fresh it is.

                                    2. I never quite got that whole "snap" thing. When the stalks are pretty thick, I cut off about an inch or so from the bottom with a knife. Then I peel the bottom third of the stalk with a handy-dandy "spargelschaler" I bought in Germany. The asparagus are tender, never stringy as they can be when the stalks are not peeled. OTOH, if the asparagus are pencil-thin to begin with, I trim just a sliver from the bottom and they're good to go.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                        The most highly-prized white asparagus, such as that so treasured (and so delicious!) in France and Germany, is wider than your thumb, and completely inedible if you don't peel it. (I tried snapping -- no go -- you lose most of it) I have a spargelschaler, too -- and it's absolutely the best tool for the job. I *hate* unitaskers, but I'll make an exception for that.

                                        The pencil-thin green ones I snap -- that's the best way for THOSE.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          Some of the spargelschalers I've seen look just like the vegetable peelers we have in the kitchen drawer although spargelschaler is a much more interesting noun.

                                          1. re: John E.

                                            it's even more interesting if you add the ¨ to the schäler-part. and yeah, it's just a regular vegetable peeler.

                                            1. re: John E.

                                              Actually, the spargelschaler I've got looks a little different from an ordinary vegetable peeler. It kind of "grips" the asparagus stalk as it's being peeled.

                                              1. re: CindyJ

                                                If you hadn't told me, I would have thought of it as a dental or medical tool.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I should have posted the photo and had a guessing contest! :)

                                                2. re: CindyJ

                                                  that's the one I have - made by WMF.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Mine's made by Monopol. The box is marked, "Das Original." :)

                                          2. I peel my green asparagus. Just the woody bottom half. It doesn't take that much longer. I've done it since I was a kid.

                                            1. Not in November.
                                              Seriously people, put down the aparagus and pick up a brussels sprout. You can even peel them to your hearts content.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: rabaja

                                                Now this is true, I wasn't sure why we were discussing asparagus now, although the peeling or not discussion is always interesting.

                                                I don't like to eat asparagus out of season (spring for me) or imported from thousands of miles away.