Before reading this article, think of the top five foods you will find and most likely eat while visiting Germany.
Many of us will associate Germany with sauerkraut (made from cabbage), bratwursts, various sorts of steaks (like the Sauerbraten and the Kasseler), various kinds of potato dishes and for desert, marzipan (an almond paste you find in many pastries). One can include roasted wild boar, venecin (deer meat), fish entrées (mostly in northern Germany) and even chocolate (like nougat).
But what about asparagus?
When I was first introduced to asparagus, I was only eight years old and my grandmother had a small field with green asparagus, located in the middle of a four acre pasture that was mostly occupied with horses. It was not cultivated as in the videos below, but was fenced off so that it could grow on its own. When riped, it was peeled and served boiled- most of the time with butter or cheese, and it was perfect for a typical family cookout in the United States. 🙂
Yet, especially when watching the videos above, when traveling in Europe, one will embrace the Spargelzeit and with that, many colorful kinds of asparagus, stemming from purple and black to white- the latter is a German past time. I had an opportunity to try white asparagus for the first time while staying in Interlaken, Switzerland in 1999, in a form of a “cold plate entrée.” Right away, when comparing the white with the green, the difference was clear- a bit bitter, but watery for the white. Nevertheless, it was delicious. 🙂 Trying the standard German entrée, with Hollandaise sauce for the first time a year later, and one needs no introduction except to say, you will be committing a sin if you elect a Big Mac over boiled asparagus with butter sauce- especially during this time!
Between April and the end of June, asparagus is harvested and available in stores for people to eat. Recipes, including a couple from the Guardian (here), are in scores, and people will find asparagus in every single meal, whether it is a soup, in a pizza, or in various salads, like the one I tried in Switzerland. Every year, Germans treat asparagus as Catholics treat Lent- You have to have it at least once a year, because they are pure, healthy and just plain delicious. It’s just like with fish, which is eaten during the time of Lent as the only source of meat. Yet as hundreds of thousands of tons are eaten every year, more are planted and cultivated, which is a time-consuming and sometimes a painstaking task to complete. The videos can provide you with an overview of how asparagus is planted, harvested, packaged and sold for the dinner table. And this minus the peeling and boiling of them which we have to do ourselves.
In the end, all that work is well worth the consumption. It is safe to say that asparagus is the food of champions for those who toil in the fields to bring them home for us to appreciate, bless, and in the end, eat it. 😉 <3
So for all our tourist friends visiting Germany next time, especially around springtime, take this advice: eat the Spargel and leave the rest of the food for later. When you try a German asparagus, you will never resort to meat again. 😉
To finish my patronizing of the asparagus, here’s a bonus from the German mystery series Tatort with Thiel and Boerne, whose case to be solved takes us to teh asparagus fields and the reason why asparagus is an important food for Germany, especially in the spring time.