Stinkin’ Spargel

White AsparagusA couple of years ago, my husband and I were fortunate to be visiting southern Germany in late May. It was Spargel season.  I have a limited vocabulary in German, I can usually have great conversations with 3-year olds.  So this was a new word for me, but one that I became very familiar with before the end of the trip.  Spargel is the German word for asparagus.

Yes, we get asparagus here in the US in the spring, but it’s nothing like we saw or experienced in Germany.  There were miles and miles of Spargel fields revealing mounds of asparagus covered with black plastic. I remember one meal we enjoyed at the home of friends where the main course was simply Spargel. They take their asparagus seriously.  They loved the thick stalked white asparagus.

White asparagus is the same plant as the green .  The difference is sunlight is kept from the growing asparagus stalk. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, thus a white stalk.   Some say white asparagus has a milder, sweeter and more “buttery” taste than green. To me both are just good.

We should be seeing local (or at least less expensive) spring asparagus in the US soon. Most of what we find locally grown or in markets is the green asparagus. While we tend to look for small tender stalks, our friends in Germany seemed to feel the thicker the stalk the better.   Comparing gram for gram, white asparagus has a slightly less nutrient content than green.  But overall,  both are good for you. There are high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in both white and green. One spear has about 4 calories with zero fat or cholesterol and is an excellent source of folacin.

Asparagus per 100 grams (USDA):
Calories    20
Fat    0
Carbs     4 grams
Protein    2 grams
Fiber    2 grams
Sugar    2 grams

asparagusI know this is a delicate subject, but worth a quick mention.  Does your pee smell funny after you eat asparagus?  While this topic isn’t usually discussed at polite parties, it does seem to be a hotly debated topic among “asparagus people”. Some say everyone has “asparagus urine” just some people don’t have the ability to smell the odor. Others contest that it doesn’t happen in everyone.  Either way, it is normal.  According the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board (www.asparagus.org) it is thought to be the breakdown of amino acids during the digestion of asparagus that causes this odor.

Smell aside, enjoy Spargel.

Here are great recipes and articles from Food and Health Communications for Toaster Oven Asparagus, Grilled Asparagus and Creamy Asparagus Soup.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS.
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

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updated on 10-28-2020