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Weisser Spargel (White Asparagus) season in Germany

By Ken Yeager

It is that time again when the Germans go a bit nuts over white asparagus. Partly because the season is pretty short, between six to eight weeks, depending on the weather, but also because, I have to say, it tastes good. Think of it, boiled potatoes, a nice slice of Kateschinken (ham, sort of like Parma, but a different smoke), white asparagus with melted butter or hollandaise sauce and of course, a nice chilled glass of Riesling white wine and, naturally, a bottle of mineral water to refresh the palette.

White asparagus grows completely underground and is only exposed to the sun while it is being harvested. Much of it is grown under plastic sheets to magnify the heat and make it grow faster. The stuff isn’t cheap because it must be harvested by hand and imported labor is primarily used, mostly Poles….Germans don’t like to do work like that. The season starts in May and ends towards the middle of June and during that time, Germans will eat tons of the stuff in a variety of ways. I personally am especially fond of asparagus cream soup, but I’ve also eaten it baked in tinfoil, on pizza and in chicken fricassee and I am sure there are many more ways to eat this vegetable. Asparagus is supposed to be good for the kidneys. Immediately after one eats asparagus, the urine has a very strong smell and this is supposed to be a good sign of flushing the kidneys (who knows).

Following the way my wife prepares it, she peels the asparagus using a device similar to a potato peeler and strips the stringy stuff from just below the head of the stalk all the way to the bottom and then trims off the bottom by about half an inch. The peels are put into water and boiled for 20-30 minute and then removed and discarded. The peeled asparagus is then put into the water (with a bit of butter and salt) and cooked for 15 to 20 minutes. (Some folks like to use some caraway seeds in the water as well for flavor – fortunately, neither of us like caraway seeds in anything). The cooked asparagus is then removed from the water and put on a dish towel to drain and then onto the plates for serving. Often we save (freeze) the water (which is now a broth) and use it for making asparagus soup.

Interestingly, green asparagus which is readily available in the US and here as well, is less popular with the Germans but in my opinion has a better taste and requires less peeling than the white. Never have understood why white asparagus is not grown in the US, probably because of the labor-intensive harvesting.

If you are ever in Germany during the asparagus season, make an effort to have some and enjoy something that the Germans love. Mahlzeit

6 comments to Weisser Spargel (White Asparagus) season in Germany

  • Ken – It is interesting you should mention White Asparagus. A few months ago I stopped by a Target store to pick up some fruits and veggies they had on sale. They had a really good buy on *green* asparagus. But, right next to it I saw (for the first time in my life) several bunches of *white* asparagus – priced very, very high – lol. I almost bought a bunch, just to try it to see what it was like – but, at $6.99 per bunch (compared to $1.39 a bunch for green) – I passed it up.

    I love asparagus. In the warm months I like to mix it with a little olive oil, fresh garlic and lime juice – then grill it over charcoal … yummy yummy. During the cold months I just steam it in a basket on top of the rice cooker (while the rice is cooking) then move the asparagus to a baking dish with a little butter, garlic, a touch of Mrs. Dash seasoning – then put it under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Add a couple nice pieces of salmon or mahi mahi fish and … supper is ready – dig in!! – LOL – 🙂

    Bob

    PS to Mimi: Yes, mom I’m eating my garlic!! 🙂 – LOL.

  • Bruce Thomas

    During my elementary school years (which were before my family’s sojourn in Saigon), we lived on a small Caribbean island. My parents over the years had become enamored of a Puerto Rican dish that was attractively garnished with green asparagus spears. I hated asparagus. It made me gag. And I was always made to “eat just one.” I hated asparagus!

    Fast forward to my senior year in college. I was invited to dinner at the home of a faculty member and I brought along a date. While my date and I sat in the den, dutifully letting the professor hold forth on some scholarly analysis in literature, and sipping our cocktails, his wife was finishing preparations for the meal we would be enjoying soon. When we were called to the dining room, I smiled at the perfectly broiled steaks. But then my eyes fell on a heaping plate of asparagus. Gads! How was I going to fake enjoying that awful stuff, much less keep from gagging? I carefully placed three stalks on my plate, and attacked the steak.

    Finally, I tentatively cut off a small chunk of asparagus. Funny, I thought to myself, these aren’t soft and squishy like the ones I remembered from my childhood. They had substance. And funny — they weren’t green, but white. They were fresh. And delicious.

    I still won’t touch asparagus out of a can (living on the small Caribbean island mandated that asparagus always came in a can). But since my epiphany at that wonderful dinner in college, fresh asparagus, and especially white asparagus, remains a favorite of mine.

    Bruce

    • Bruce – Did you have to mention that #$%&@ *canned* asparagus!?! I like you remember it from my youth – lol. There was the store bought canned version, and my grandmothers *home* canned version. Both were … well I can’t find the words to describe them – LOL. I was well into adulthood before I’d even consider eating asparagus in any way, shape or form. But, then one day I was placed in a position of *insulting* my host or eat the freshly prepared asparagus, which I found was quite tasty – LOL.

      I suppose we could take this discussion over to hominy, grits, okra, greens, hush puppies, cole slaw, BBQ, pickled eggs, beets and turnips – just to add a southern touch – LOL – Oh and we can’t forget that sweet potatoe pie and fried green tomatoes – Opps I left out rhubarb – Why am I suddenly so dang hungry!?! – LOL – 🙂

      While in Viet-nam was anyone an *honored guest* and treated to the delicacy of *7 day Dove* by their host??

      Bob

  • Suellen Oliver Campbell

    I always loved asparagus, and when in the 4th grade,”treated” my birthday guests, to a luncheon of asparagus and melted cheese on toast points. Most thought that was a delicious birthday lunch…can you imagine serving that to a group of fast-food-eating kids today?
    “7 day Dove?” Can’t wait to hear about that, Bob.
    Which reminds me of “petit oiseau” however. At some time during our Saigon Days, Mom and Dad had an evening function and left my brother and me to dine alone. She insists she had requested we be served “chicken” for dinner, but admits she added the words, “petit oiseau” in her conversation to the cook. So, at the dinner hour, David and I sat down at the table and were each presented with a plate upon which rested the tiniest roasted bird…never identified the little blighter, but it was whole, featherless, and with its head and neck curled around so that its chest was impaled with its long skinny beak!OMG! We still chuckle about that meal and Mom’s expression when we told her what we had been served while they were partying elsewhere. Something was lost (or perhaps added) in the translation, no doubt.
    Have a good week!Enjoy your asparagus!
    Suellen

  • Frank

    Weisser Spargel! Ah! Brings back fond memories of my tours in Germany. Yes, it is delicious. We also started to look forward to the “r” months for the fine taste of Carp. The large salted radishes, the bratwurst, Gordon Blue, potato salad …and on and on! I’ll be in Berlin (two days), Nuremberg (only for four hours) and Munich (two days) in June. I have not been to Berlin since the “wall” came down. My favorite European city is Nuremberg. I am so much looking forward to a Nuremberg Bratwurst, pom fritz and a pilsner. My friend Carlos and I will be taking teenagers to Europe for our seventh year.
    P.S. Ken, could have used the Asparagus receipt several years ago. The first time we prepared it we did not peal them. Big mistake! ….gag me with a spoon!!! Frank

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    I started to do a new post about asparagus but then remembered that I had done one before. It is the season again and we have already eaten it twice, although from our frozen supply, not the fresh stuff. Make no mistake, Germans eat well and to a large degree healthy. And the make a big stink about GMO foods and I agree with them on that issue. It should be banned everywhere.
    Have a good Sunday everyone.

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