Asparagus - The Queen of German Vegetables
[ source: Flickr]
In the pantheon of German vegetables, hardly any other vegetable has had quite the career that asparagus has recently had in Germany. Both its cultivation and its consumption have nearly doubled - but why?
It used to be that asparagus was on offer from early May to St. John's Day on June 24, was grown in warmer parts of Germany, left to grow as it would, and served with new potatoes and sauce hollandaise.
Then, the farmers found that a vegetable that can cost up to 10 Euro (about 13 USD) per kilogram (2 lb.) brings rather more money than simple carrots, cauliflower, or most other German vegetables. So, first of all, they covered the fields in black foil that let the sun heat up the soil much quicker, resulting in earlier harvests.
Aim of the exercise was to offer the first asparagus already around Easter - and it worked out rather well. The so-called
foil asparagus has pretty much become standard, and driving through the German areas of its cultivation, the glistening asparagus fields can be seen for kilometer past kilometer.
Farmers with pride and offering quality take care to note they don't offer asparagus which had to grow under foil.
By now, there are even regions - especially on the Lower Rhine, close by the large brown coal power plants - in which the asparagus is even warmed from below. Something of an underfloor heating below the fields contributes to the asparagus' growth.
A delicacy was thus turned into a product for mass consumption - but there are still regions which are particularly well-suited for asparagus growing and where truly well-grown and tasty asparagus can still be found.
In the North, that would be the area around Beelitz (Beelitz vacation rentals | Beelitz travel guide), near Berlin (Berlin vacation rentals | Berlin travel guide). This is where the capital's best asparagus comes from. The sandy soil in Brandenburg is ideal; it is also cut shorter here than in other, more Southern, parts of Germany - and as the asparagus heads are the tastiest parts of the veggie, one gets more taste for the same amount here in Berlin and Brandenburg.
Another quality area for asparagus lies around Burgdorf, near Hannover (Hannover vacation rentals | Hannover travel guide). As every visitor to the large industry fair of Hannover may remember, it always takes place right at the time when the asparagus is in season.
Further areas with lots of asparagus cultivation lie along the Rhine. For one, on the Lower Rhine in the vegetable-growing region of North Rhine - Westphalia, and also in Rheinhessen. The area between Bingen (Bingen vacation rentals | Bingen travel guide) and Mainz (Mainz vacation rentals | Mainz travel guide) is particularly well-known for its asparagus. There are said to be gourmets who can taste the difference between asparagus from Finthen and from Ingelheim…
On towards the South, one gets to the German capital of asparagus, Schwetzingen (Schwetzingen vacation rentals | Schwetzingen travel guide). On the market here, taking place next to the beautiful castle park in a formidable alley of old trees, dozens of stalls offer asparagus, as well as a variety of other German vegetables, in all the usual grades. Close-by Bruchsal (Bruchsal vacation rentals | Bruchsal travel guide) is the largest commercial asparagus market of Germany where nearly all of the asparagus sold in Germany is traded.
The offer in the markets of nearby Mannheim (Mannheim vacation rentals | Mannheim travel guide) and Heidelberg (Heidelberg vacation rentals | Heidelberg travel guide) is also extensive. By the way: if you go on a market to buy asparagus, check if they have asparagus heads or
broken pieces (
Spargelbruch) on offer. They are typically heads of different size, but it means that you don't need to peel as much and get the best-tasting parts.
One renowned growing region in the South still needs to be mentioned: Schrobenhausen (Schrobenhausen vacation rentals | Schrobenhausen travel guide). Here, one can not only find more than 500 farmers growing asparagus, but also the European Asparagus Museum where one can learn just about everything about the vegetable: history, cultivation, traditional beliefs, and different kinds of preparation.
Typically, asparagus is eaten the classical way: boiled, with boiled potatoes, sauce hollandaise or liquefied butter, and ham.
One trend that has spread widely is that of offering asparagus with various different sauces, but there is also asparagus carpaccio (raw asparagus cut into very thin slices)… or asparagus salad or even asparagus ice cream, if so inclined.
Some variants are worth a try, e.g. the Swabian
Kratzete (a ripped-apart thin pancake) that accompanies the asparagus, or the asparagus is rolled into an omelet.
Also worth tasting is fried or braised asparagus; cream of asparagus soup as an appetizer is certainly a good choice.
About this Article
This travel guide has been written by Gaby Leeser.
Ich bin studierte Volkskundlerin und gelernte Fernsehreporterin , reise sehr gerne beruflich und privat durch Deutschland und verbringe meinen Urlaub seit Jahren nur in Ferienhäusern oder Ferienwohnungen.
Beruflich habe ich sowohl für das ZDF und den SWR gearbeitet, aber auch für verschiedene private TV Sender - daneben habe ich mich immer mehr auf Recherchen zu den unterschiedlichsten Themen spezialisiert.
Ansonsten lebe ich mit Mann und Foxterrier in Mainz , sammle alte Kochbücher , backe eigenes Brot und fahre mit meinen kleinen grünen MG gerne in die nähere und weitere Umgebung um Neues zu entdecken und stundenlang mit meinem Hund spazieren zu gehen.
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