Germany’s traditions: Spargel Season

by Shereece Spain
Stripes Europe

Venturing to new countries affords us the opportunity for new adventures and experiences. One of the best ways to experience a country is through its food. Well, that’s my favorite way to do it. With each season comes different ingredients indigenous to the land. From mid-April until June 24, here in Germany, you will find yourself in the season of all things spargel!

What is spargel

Simply stated, it’s white asparagus. It’s grown underground, which is why it’s absent of the usual green color. It has a milder flavor and the preparation for cooking is very different. Because it’s not green, kids don’t really think of it as a vegetable, possibly making it a good option for your picky eaters.

Welcome Spargelzeit (white asparagus time)

You may have heard of the Romantic Road or Wine Road. Well, there’s actually an asparagus road (Badische Spargelstaβe). It includes Bruchsal, Hockenheim, Karlsruhe, Rastatt (home of the largest asparagus farm), Reilingen and Schwetzingen, which is the spargel capital of the world. Schwetzingen is the best place to visit during this season, and I recommend making a trip at least once during your European tour. Each May they host an amazing festival to celebrate the spargel season, which includes the crowning of a festival king and queen and an asparagus peeling competition. Farmers markets will be overflowing with this one-of-a-kind vegetable. You will probably see pop-up spargel stands around your village.

If you normally don’t like green asparagus, I’d still give its cousin, the white asparagus, a shot because they are somewhat different. It actually may surprise you!

Let’s eat

Now, I’m officially hungry and craving spargel! If you attend a festival or dine in a restaurant, culinary artists prepare it in a variety of ways. There really is no “traditional” dish so-to-speak. However, there are a few popular ways it’s prepared, such as in soup, a flammkuchen topping, and ham and spargel. Sometimes, it’s served as a side dish lightly coated in hollandaise sauce or wrapped in bacon (so it has to be delicious, right?). Be brave when you go out to eat this spring and take the opportunity to sample the many recipe varieties.

If you want to attempt to create your own dish at home, first you’ll need to know how to prepare it. Store spargel loosely-wrapped in a damp towel in the vegetable drawer. Try to cook it within one or two days of purchase for the ideal freshness. Peel the stalks from tip to base and then cut the ends.

An excellent site for recipes is germanfoods.org. From the “recipes” page, select “Menus and Flavor Collections.” spargelzeit tops this list! They have an extensive collection of food recipes featuring this seasonal vegetable. Surprisingly, there’s also a cocktail and a dessert you can attempt to make.

If you get a craving in the off-season, you can purchase it in the frozen section or canned. It’s not quite the same; however, it will do in a pinch if properly prepared when the craving strikes. In my opinion, I would only use this version in a soup.

Now you have an excuse to attend another festival and consume more of the delicious foods and beverages offered in Germany. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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