Its Spring in the Béarn

Asp April 13
This white asparagus is a variety called “asperge violet” by the French to distinguish it from its cousin that is totally white including the tips. These were at the Tuesday market at Orthez.

While Seattle waits for the Spring produce, spring arrived a few weeks ago in the Béarn.  Asparagus, both white and green and as thick as my thumb mark the apex of the season.  Strawberries (strawberries!  We will be waiting  weeks for then at home) from les Landes, 20 minutes north of Orthez in varieties with musical sounding names (La Gariguette; la Cigaline; l’Elsanta).  Purple artichokes from Provence.  Violet tinges, turnips with fine cream colored skins from near Tarbes.

Its a rare treat to be able to fete the arrival of spring vegetables twice in one year.    A side benefit to a spring visit to the Béarn and a return to Seattle in May.

Asp April 13 2
Preparing asparagus the French way, which is to say, they must be peeled. I find this step necessary for white asparagus but totally unnecessary for green.

A confession: although interesting as a novelty, I find I still prefer green asparagus to white.  This after exploring a number of cooking methods and using them in a variety of different dishes and having eaten the white stalks in reputable restaurants.  I am not sure I get the hype.  The white variety is sweeter than the green and more delicate, but to my mind, it lacks the earthy flavor of green asparagus at its best.  The most successful white asparagus dish I have eaten is a creamy soup, embellished with slices of fresh black truffle.



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