Spring in Germany means one thing; Spargel! From mid April through the end of June, Spargel (asparagus to us English speakers) is EVERYWHERE. There are roadside stands, special displays in grocery stores and some restaurants even feature a Spargel menu. As an asparagus lover, this is basically my idea of heaven. If you’re also Spargel obsessed, read on to learn WHY it’s such a big deal here and how to prepare it the German way!
What makes Spargelzeit special?
Unlike in the USA, asparagus only appears in German supermarkets for a limited time. Germans generally avoid importing the veggie due to the carbon footprint, therefore buying in season is the only option. The beginning of the asparagus harvest is weather dependent, but typically starts in mid April. However, the season is short lived with a hard stop on June 24th, also known as “Spargel Silvester”. In theory, farmers can pick asparagus later into the summer, but this would come with consequences. The next year’s crop could be significantly smaller as the asparagus plants need enough time to regenerate before the first frost.
At the beginning of the season, the price for a bundle of asparagus can be crazy high! However in mid May, prices settle down. You can generally find a good bunch of stalks for around €4. Don’t get complacent though! Prices will rise again toward June 24th.
White or Green?
The main difference between green and white asparagus is growing conditions. White asparagus never sees sunlight. As the spears grow, they are covered either with dirt or a protective black plastic. This prevents the production of the green pigmented molecule, chlorophyll. On the other hand, green asparagus stalks poke freely out of the earth. The spears produce chlorophyll and turn green.
There are differences in flavor, too. Green asparagus has a grassy taste, while white asparagus is more delicate with a hint of sweetness. Additionally, white Spargel is thicker and more fiberous than the green variety. Before cooking, you must peel the lower portions. Unsure you want to commit to that? I recently saw a special machine that will peel your asparagus for you!
Enjoying Asparagus the German Way
Traditional Spargelzeit recipes are generally pretty simple. Frequently asparagus is paired with melted butter and potatoes, topped with hollandaise sauce or wrapped in ham. Occasionally, you’ll see a combination of all three! One of my favorites, though, is Spargelsuppe. If green asparagus is more to your taste, check out my recipe for ABC Quiche.
What do you think? Will you be making a pilgrimage to Germany for Spargelzeit next year? Let me know below!
For more recipe inspiration, check out my Spargelzeit Pinterest board!