The real difference between green and white asparagus

Asparagus is truly a blank canvas—it's delicious simply sautéed and served warm with olive oil, salt and pepper; marinated and tossed on the grill; quickly steamed and added to a bowl of pasta, or baked into a tasty spring quiche. But as versatile as it is, it's sometimes tough to know which variety—green or white—to use in each dish.

To help get you started, we've pulled together a guide to what these spears are all about. Grab a bunch from your local farmers' market or grocery store and get ready to start cooking.

How They're Grown

The basic difference between green and white asparagus relates back to its roots—literally. While white asparagus is grown in a dark environment, either underground or well covered, the green version gets to soak up all the sunlight. Covering the white asparagus prevents it from producing chlorophyll, the naturally occurring chemical that turns the vegetable green. Both, however, are available in the spring.

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11 Healthiest Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
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11 Healthiest Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

What if you could get lean, boost your antioxidant intake, and save money—all at the same time? This produce grocery list will help you do all of the above. Stock your freezer with these 11 frozen fruits and vegetables.

1. Corn

At just 59 calories per ear, corn is packed with fiber, antioxidants, and B vitamins. It's also a great source of carotenoids like lutein, which protect your eyes from macular degeneration—one of the leading causes of blindness in adults. You can add corn kernels to your salad, soup, or black bean salsa, or sauté them with finely chopped jalapeño, cilantro, and a sprinkle of cotija cheese for Mexican esquites (that's "toasted corn" to you, Gringo). Or enjoy the whole ear—just skip the butter.

2. Broccoli

Steamed broccoli helps lower cholesterol and detoxifies the body. It's also a good source of fiber to aid in digestion, kaempferol to fight inflammation, and vitamins K and A to ward off vitamin D deficiency. Toss some florets with whole-wheat pasta or orzo; use them in morning omelets; or stir-fry with thinly sliced sirloin, finely chopped garlic, and low-sodium soy sauce for a quick weeknight dinner.

3. Green Beans

Rich in eye-protecting phytonutrients, green beans also help your bones stay strong, thanks to their high concentration of silicon. Use them in a classic Niçoise salad made with omega-3-packed tuna and potatoes, or sauté them with sliced garlic, cherry tomatoes, and red pepper flakes for a spicy low-cal side.

4. Cauliflower

This cruciferous veggie helps reduce the risk of cancer, particularly prostate, bladder, and colon cancers. Chop in the food processor, then microwave in a covered dish for an alternative to rice; or purée with fennel seeds to make a dip or soup.

5. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts help lower cholesterol and protect your DNA, plus they have anti-cancer benefits. For an easy prep option, just throw them on a sheet pan with a little olive oil and chopped garlic, then roast at 400° for 35–40 minutes.

6. Spinach

Packed with cancer-reducing antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, spinach is also a rich source of iron. You can add chopped spinach to lasagna, scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, or any sauce or soup to add flavor and nutrients.

7. Winter Squash

This vegetable is like a multivitamin on your plate, protecting you from a host of ills. Top puréed winter squash with cinnamon and maple syrup for a cold-weather treat, or for a more savory soup, blend squash, low-sodium broth, and sautéed onion.

8. Carrots

Carrots are rich in beta-carotene—a form of vitamin A that's great for your vision—as well as heart-healthy antioxidants. You can throw frozen carrots (right out of the bag) into stews and soups. If you prefer them tender, do it early in the cooking process; for more crunch, add them near the end.

9. Blueberries

A cup of blueberries has just 71 calories but packs six grams of fiber, and it's hard to believe just how much cancer-fighting power is jammed into such a small superfruit. Keep them on hand to boost the flavor and nutrients in your protein shakes, or add frozen blueberries to hot oatmeal.

10. Peaches

These fruits are high in calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Add some peaches to cottage cheese for a high-protein, low-carb post-workout snack, or whip up a simple—but healthy—dessert. Just bake one with cinnamon and a touch of agave, then top with low-fat frozen yogurt. Done and done.

11. Cherries

Research links cherries' red color—provided by the fruit's powerful anthocyanins—to a reduction in inflammation, total cholesterol, and belly fat. To work frozen cherries into your diet, just defrost a cup and put them on top of plain Greek yogurt.

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How They Taste

White and green asparagus also differ in taste. The white spears have a slightly milder flavor, whereas the green ones are a bit earthier and heartier.

How to Prepare and Cook Them

Since white asparagus is generally thicker and coarser than its green counterpart, it's important to peel the stalks thoroughly and make sure they're well cooked. On the other hand, green asparagus is not as tough, but depending on the size—pencil, regular or large—you might need to trim off the ends and peel the stalks as well.

Unlike white asparagus, green should be cooked al dente until nice and tender. Thinner spears are best used for sautéing, stir-fries, pastas and savory tarts, while the thicker pieces are perfect for roasting and grilling. Given the differences in cooking time, both should be cooked separately.

The Difference in Cost

The price for each varies based on where the varieties are grown. So green asparagus, which is cultivated in the States, tends to be less expensive in America than white, which grows mainly in Europe and South Africa. At the end of the day, the cost of importing the beloved vegetable affects the price tag the most.

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