It's that time of year again, the emergence of the ubiquitous white asparagus, known as spargel, here in Germany.
Germans are crazy about this vegetable, and during the short season between April and June, spargel can be found in spring markets, grocery stores and direct from the farmers.
Like gelaterias in Italy, everyone seems to have their favorite place to buy it. Our neighbor told me his favorite place was Spargelhof Nauert in Walldorf, so on Friday I went and bought a kilo to make asparagus soup.
Here the washed and trimmed spargel is arranged by size and price, the smallest going for €5.90 a kilo and the biggest for €9.90. I chose the mid-range price and the vendor asked if I wanted it peeled. I asked whether this was difficult and he pointed to a peeling machine behind him. When I gave him the go-ahead, he ran each piece through the peeler and the tough outer skin magically disappeared. Amazing! That will sure save some work at home.
Grown in Germany for almost 500 years, white asparagus is a variety coveted for its thick stalks and mild taste. The plant is a perennial, so is one of the first fresh vegetables available in springtime.
To keep the spargel white, it is grown underground in elevated rows of sand and compost which blanch the shoots as they grow. A thick plastic covering protects the delicate stalks. When the shoots break the surface, they are harvested. Cultivation is time-consuming as each shoot must be cut by hand and the hole filled over with dirt.
Many local restaurants have a spargelkarte or asparagus menu featuring their seasonal specialties, including creamy spargel soup, spargel salad and of course, spargel served with Hollandaise sauce.
This vegetable is truly a national treasure, and with such a short season, should be enjoyed to the fullest.
For a short video on harvesting spargel in Germany, click here.