The season of Spargel, or Spargelzeit, is upon us. This crazy, yet healthy and wholesome, time in Germany started last week and will continue until June 24th. During this time, the average German will delight in this spring vegetable once a day! The season starts with a celebration in Brandenburg's Beelitz, which has been growing this famous veggie since 1861 and officially ends on June 24th, which is Johannistag or Saint John's Eve.
Why Spargel is So Loved
Germany has a passion that is STRONG for the white vegetable. They even refer to it as "Edelgemuse" or Nobel Vegetable. The green version is more popular in the United States and Britain, but in Germany, the white asparagus is king. The country produces just under 60,000 tons, so they must import the veggie to keep up with demand. Spargel is a special vegetable for many Germans as it signifies the ending of the long, cold winter, it's the first vegetable of spring, it's high in nutrients and low in calories, and it's also reported to incite romance with its aphrodisiac properties. There is a down side for many, however, the white asparagus may actually contain more of asparagusic acid, which is what produces asparagus pee...not sure how much romance that promotes.
White or Green?
White asparagus is by far the more favored of the two. They are actually the same vegetable, but they are grown differently. White asparagus is grown buried in dirt, totally undercover and without sunlight reaching it's stalks. It's green counterpart basks in sunlight, which turns it's stalks green. This magical vegetable can take up to 3 years to produce it's first "tip" and can produce for up to 20 years. The white, due to it's growing method, has a much more delicate, sweeter and milder flavor than the green. Which is your favorite?
Pick in the Morning and Eat for Lunch!
You should be able to find spargel this time of year without issue. There are stands around the villages, farmers markets, and you can find it in grocery stores as well. When you select white asparagus, look for a straight stalk and the fresher the better! The straighter the stalk, the higher the quality (and higher the price). Examine the cut ends of the veggie, squeezing slightly (with the farmers permission) to see if you can produce a bit of liquid. If you can, it's good spargel. The thickness of the stalk isn't really important, but a thicker stalk does make it easier to peel (you must peel white asparagus prior to eating). You can purchase an asparagus peeler, or many vendors will already have them peeled and ready for consumption. The standard peeler is a tool with the blade perpendicular to the hand, or this fancier model from Amazon.de.
Preparing white asparagus can be difficult because it doesn't change color to let you know it's done or overdone, so it's very easy to end up with mushy asparagus. If you don't intend to eat the stalks right away, wrap them in a damp kitchen towel and store in the fridge. One of the easier ways is to steam it, cover it in butter and serve it alongside black bread or potatoes and ham. Another popular cooking technique is to cook them in a small amount of water for 12-15 minutes. You will have an opportunity to try many different recipes such as soups and stews, pies, wrapped in speck, sauces and dips, and mains and sides. So many things to try!
Where Is It?!
You can purchase them locally, or if you are really crazy for spargel, take a trip on the German Spargelstrasse! This asparagus road spans from town in Baden Wuerttemberg to Brandenburg. For thousands of spargel connosseurs, it's the ultimate experience. There are 750 kilometers and thousands of acres full of fresh, white asparagus calling to be cut and consumed. Or....you could just hit up one of the many stands in the Kaiserslautern area..Here is a listing from Erdbeeren Funck - which is the company that has the cute little stands at the strawberry fields. www.erdbeerenfunck.de
1. Kaiserslautern Königsstraße: Königstraße 117 67655, Kaiserslautern 2. Kaiserslautern - Trippstadterstr: Trippstadter Straße 125 67663, Kaiserslautern 3. Globus Kaiserslautern; Merkurstraße 57 67663, Kaiserslautern 4. Kaiserslautern bei Real: Mannheimer Straße 234 67657, Kaiserslautern 5. Otterberg: Gewerbestraße 2 67697, Otterberg 6. Weilerbach: Danziger Straße 16 67685, Weilerbach 7. Enkenbach-Alsenborn: Rosenhofstraße 1 67677,Enkenbach-Alsenborn 8. Ramstein: August-Süßdorf-Straße 2A 66877, Ramstein-Miesenbach 9. Landstuhl: Torfstraße 66849,Landstuhl
Spargel Harvest: Back Breaking!
I went to a spargel/strawberry farm last year to take a tour and see how the harvesting is done. I was shocked! The men and women who were harvesting the asparagus were lying on a platform, pulling the white stalks out of the ground one by one. There was a machine that would lift the white tarp in order for them to reach each stalk. It was hard work to say the least. Here is a video where you can see this process.