Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Une botte d'asperges

I think it was Starman who left a comment on Ken's blog recently to the effect that although he loves white asparagus, he had never seen it for sale in bunches. I've seen it for sale as loose spears of course, but around here you mostly see it bundled into what's called une botte (a bunch, a bundle, a sheaf, or a bale, like hay bales).

Most of the time a bundle weighs one kilogram. Some vendors make their bundles smaller in what I think is an attempt to fool buyers into paying more. I may have fallen for that once or twice. I try to be careful about that now.

There's a restaurant in the nearby town of Contres, between St.-Aignan and Blois, called La Botte d'Asperges (The Bunch of Asparagus). We ate there once in season, but that night their asparagus was a bit fibrous and therefore not very good. We were disappointed and haven't gone back.

The Sologne region, which is right next door to us, is known for its white asparagus this time of year.

Une botte d'asperges that I got at our Saturday market.

The same asparagus, peeled, trimmed, and ready for cooking.

White asparagus is the same plant as the green variety. The difference is that the white stuff is never allowed to see sunlight. As it grows, farmers pile up dirt to keep the shoots covered. Then when they're ready to pick, the harvest crew uses a special tool to dig out each spear by hand. This is one reason why white asparagus is not cheap. We're lucky to get good local spears in our markets sold by the people who grow them. That keeps the prices reasonable for us.

Unlike green asparagus, the white spears need to be peeled before they're cooked. The outer skin is tough and fibrous, but the inside is tender and delicious.

And here they are cooked. And they were delicious.

Carrots and leeks are often sold en bottes (in bunches). Radishes are almost always sold that way as are little bunches of herbs like parsley, cilantro, or chives. Bales of hay are called bottes de foin. And just to confuse things, une botte is also a boot -- in the American sense (what you wear on your feet), not in the British sense (the trunk of a car).


  1. They look like bamboo shoots :)

  2. Beautiful! It was certainly DELISH!!!!

  3. Mmmm, I love love love white asparagus!

  4. I didn't realise you have to peel it - thanks for the tip!

  5. Yes, it was I. Thanks for the information. I had no idea how it was grown. Very interesting. I know you don't read my blogs, but if you had, you would know that we have been disappointed with restaurants every now and then, but we almost always go back to give them another chance, and they rather disappoint the second time. Maybe you guys should try La Botte d'Asperges again.

  6. Oops, that should have been rarely not rather.

  7. I saw it today when I went to Leesa's local marche.. bundles and loose .. looked good.

  8. lehuutai, really? I guess I've never seen bamboo shoots that haven't been sliced!

    leesa, oh yes!

    cubby, it is good, eh?

    jean, if you don't, it's kind of tough on the outside.

    starman, I have read your blog, although not recently. I must rectify that! And we should try the restaurant again. One of these days.

    anne, did you buy any?


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