Most American’s use/prefer green asparagus. Some say because it’s what we are used to, and others say it’s because the green is so much more readily available in the US. For us, we not only like the green, but the skinnier the better! But in Germany, the fat white version is king! I can’t say that I’ve acclimated to it yet (I’m not big on veggies in the first place)….but you know what they say about “When in Rome…….”!
Spargel is Deutsch for “Asparagus” and Zeit is Deutsch for “time”. When you put them together it equals a German national obsession! Spargelzeit!! Asparagus time!!
It’s one of the most important dates on the German culinary calendar. From mid-April to 24 June every year, Germans go mad for white asparagus, and consume the ‘white gold’ at least once a day. To say Germans love this seasonal vegetable would be an understatement… they absolutely adore it. Each year, the average German consumes about 1.5kg of the spargel, and often refer to it as the ‘king of the vegetables.
"To say Germans love this seasonal vegetable would be an understatement… they absolutely adore it. Each year, the average German consumes about 1.5kg of the spargel, and often refer to it as the ‘king of the vegetables."
Spargel is grown entirely underground beneath mounds of soil and must be harvested carefully by hand. It’s a labor of love and combined with the 100,000 tons being consumed nationally each year, explains why it’s also referred to as “White Gold”! Germany consumes more asparagus than anywhere else in the world, except Switzerland.
Every year chefs and consum eagerly await the start of the season. Many restaurants offer all types of ‘Spargel’ specialties and combinations in their special asparagus menu during the ‘season’, including delicious cream of asparagus soup, asparagus ragout or fresh asparagus salad topped with the exquisite asparagus tips.
Rich in nutrients and very low in calories, asparagus has become a culinary highlight for many Germans. Once having caught the ‘asparagus fever’, one can appreciate the huge events around the ‘white gold’ even more — there are asparagus seminars and cooking courses, asparagus peeling contests, festivals, roadside asparagus booths, and tours.
In Germany’s prime asparagus-producing regions, there are gourmet trails to hike along, providing opportunities to stop at farms and restaurants and sample regional variations on a white asparagus theme, from traditional asparagus-based dishes to potent homemade schnapps. At an asparagus festival – possibly during a spear-peeling contest – you might even spot a white asparagus queen, a young woman with a strong connection to Germany’s king of vegetables, perhaps the daughter of a grower, whose duty it is to represent and promote their region’s produce.
It might sound like a rare German frivolity but it’s a role to be taken seriously: the election process involves applications forms and interviews and white asparagus queens are expected to dedicate every minute of their time to the job for the full duration of the season.
Most German regions have soil rich enough to grow white asparagus, but Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony grow more asparagus than other states and take pride in this fact. The city of Schwetzingen, located in Baden-Württemberg, calls itself the “Asparagus Capital of the World” and even hosts an annual Spargelfest (asparagus festival).
I’m told “the white gold” is a bit sweeter than its’ green counterpart. How about you? Have you tried it? In your opinion is it better than the green version to which we have grown accustomed?