5.05.2008

Veggie Tales

All this time, I mistakenly thought German cuisine consisted of two major staples, meat and potatoes or, at the very least, bratwurst and beer. This was an obvious assumption to make because all winter long and aside from a small salad with yogurt dressing, I have hardly seen a vegetable served at any of the neighborhood restaurants.

However in the last couple weeks, the dietary habits of the locals have changed dramatically. Everywhere I look—in the grocery stores, restaurants, and numerous, small, roadside stands—one particular vegetable has taken over. It is not just any vegetable, mind you. It’s what the Germans call the königliches gemüse (or royal vegetable) known as spargel.

In the English-speaking world, we call it asparagus.

From April through early June, Germany produces 57,000 tons of the stuff. Thanks to a process known as hilling--where asparagus is completely covered with soil to prevent photosynthesis—most German spargel is white and much sweeter to the palate than its greener sibling. But what really amazes me is that the spargelsaison ( or asparagus season) is not only a growing season, but also a time when the people attend festivals and special dinners in honor of this king of the vegetables. Seriously, folks--it’s only the first week of May and I’ve been invited to three spargel dinners and have already happened upon my first Spargel Fest.

Served with a special cheese, béarnaise, or hollandaise sauces, coupled with ham or lox, pulverized into a creamed soup, or made into a sandwich—I’ve had more asparagus in two weeks than I’ve eaten in a lifetime, and there is still a full month of the season to go. I am certainly not complaining. German spargel is by far superior to any other asparagus I’ve tasted. And once June passes, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next spargelsaison.

20 comments:

Dan-E said...

i wanted to be the first to make a joke about your pee smelling funny... i just couldn't think of anything at this hour.

Charlotte said...

I'm a fan of spargel too, but only cook the green spargel in my kitchen - all that peeling is too much for me! However, when I have a chance to go out and have white spargel served to me, I jump at it.

Lynda said...

Totally addictive! And white spargel freezes really well - peeled, blanched - you can eat it for a few months longer. I miss it, but managed to have some when I was there over Easter. We had some scrawny green stems here in Cairo.. no comparison.

Oh, and don't the German's have a festival for EVERYTHING! LOL

kenju said...

It is my favorite vegetable and I wish I could share some of yours! We always had white asparagus when I was growing up, but I find that it is not as tender now (more stringy) than I remember from my youth.

Danie said...

Ahh, like Fiddle-Head season in Canada. Glad you're posting again, I've missed them.

patches said...

I never thought I'd find myself envious of asparagus season, but I do now. It must be time for lunch...

An asparagus festival sounds worthy and healthy than the usual festivals in the southeast. Big Pig Jig, Gnat days, bolweevil festival, cornbread festival, Pinetree festival, and of course the Jug festival.

The Grunt said...

May sounds like a tasty month where you live.

Charlotte said...

*sob*

Homesick!!!!

G in Berlin said...

Ah, I see everyone else already knew that you need to peel German albino giant asparagus. I figured it out over the last few weeks of eating it. I absolutely prefer the thin green kind myself, but I haven't been able to find it for the last three weeks, so we have been eating white. I made a hollandaise once, but I really just prefer salt and pepper and lemon.
I just got a hand mixer- I think the next thing will be a small food processor so I can stop making my potato soup by hand and can actually make spargel suppe this season.

LZ Blogger said...

Diane ~
I love asparagus especially when it is added on the top of Mrs. LZ’s wonderful “Eggs Benedict” I even like it by itself when I can have a bowl of mayonnaise to dip the tips in while eating them with my fingers like I would fries in ketchup! Man… do I need to go get something to eat or what??? ~ jb///

A Life Uncommon said...

I love, love, love asparagus... and now I know what I want to cook for dinner. Thanks for the idea! :)

Rositta said...

My Mom had a passion for white asparagus and truthfully I never understood it. I prefer the green one, the thinner the better. It's also hard to get here and terribly expensive....ciao

egan said...

Got to love what asparagus does to your pee too.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Tell me about it...the stuff is everywhere right now...not that I am complaining :)

karey m. said...

i could eat green giant asparagus out of a can. cold. and when i told my italian mother-in-law that i LOOOOOOVE asparagus, she made some for me. WHAT IS THAT?! i asked. horrified.

so this post makes me homesick, too, for very odd reasons...

thinking of you heaps and heaps.

AmyD said...

MMMMM!!! Asparagus soup is THE BEST. Enjoy it while you can!

Cheryl said...

I like asparagus, but damn.

meno said...

You have to peel the white ones? is it because they are so big?

Asparagus sandwich? Sounds wonderful.

swenglishexpat said...

Diane - So now you also have discovered the great secret, German Spargel. It is everywhere; signs saying where to buy them, where to eat them etc. Every restaurant seems to have a special Spargel menu; on pizzas, with pasta, in salads.... It simply never ends. And they are delicious!

June said...

I would be in heaven with all that asparagus.

I just ADORE asparagus.