Just as Strawberries mark the spring season in Central Florida, nothing epitomizes spring in Germany quite like the revered white stalks of Spargel(Asparagus). While the green variety is more popular here in the states, and readily available, the Germans prefer Spargels seasonality and flavor.
The growing technique is a bit different for white asparagus. Spargel grows entirely surrounded by earth which protects the slender stalk from sunlight exposure and thereby keeps it from turning green. This also affects the vegetable’s subtle flavor. Spargel is rich in nutrients and very low in calories, easy to prepare, and most delicious to eat!
During Spargel season, most Germans indulge in the delicate flavor of this tender spring vegetable at least once a day. Annual consumption totals over 70,000 tons per year. With annual production averaging under 60,000 tons, Germany also imports Spargel to meet the continuously high demand for the healthy stalks. The vegetable’s popularity may in part be rooted in its long history as a luxury vegetable. Going back as far as 2000 BC, the prized vegetable was cultivated by the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans. During the rule of Louis XIV, it gained in popularity and was reserved to the tables of the courts. Cultivation of Spargel in the region around the city of Stuttgart dates back to the 16th century.
While you will find that in most German restaurants Spargel is steamed and served warm and accompanied by classic hollandaise, I prefer to toss the stalks with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and lightly grill or roast until tender. My sauce of choice is a mixture of the yolks from hard boiled eggs blended with a touch of mayo, dry mustard, smoked paprika and kosher salt. I serve this on the side or spooned over the Spargel and garnish with fried capers.
Spring seemed to be the ideal time to visit Southern Germany and Spargel confirmed that theory for me at every lunch and dinner I enjoyed.
Don’t despair if Germany is not on ur travel radar in the near future, you can often find White Asparagus at markets such as Whole Foods. Not always as rich and delicious as the fresh crop in Germany, but still very much enjoyable.