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South Africans in Germany

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Spargel – the German white gold

Bis Johanni – nicht vergessen – sieben Wochen Spargel essen!

The Asparagus season in Germany starts towards the end of April and ends on the 24th of June (St. John the Baptist Day)

Most Germans eagerly awaits Spargelzeit and they eat around 125 000 tonnes of asparagus each season. It is very important to them to buy only German grown asparagus, and many seasonal workers will come to Germany to help with the harverst, which is very labour intensive.

Traditionally it is eaten as a very simple dish, with boiled potatoes, ham and hollandaise sauce

Varieties

White and green asparagus is basically the same vegetable. White asparagus is grown under mulch and dark plastic, so it gets very little sunshine. It therefore gets no photosynthesis.
This creates a more delicate flavour and the stalks are thicker than the green variety, and thus the skin tends to be tougher. You will therefore need to peel it.
Green asparagus are grown in the usual way, above the ground

Buying

Stalks should be firm to the touch.
Pay attention to the tips (buds). They should be firm and tightly closed. Dry or yellow tips indicates that it is old. Also avoid mushy tips.
Purple tips – The coloration happens during a short period when the tip breaks through the soil, catches some sunlight and turns purple as a result, just before its harvest.

You can buy asparagus at the farmer’s markets, Green grocers, at small stalls along the road or in normal grocery shops.
Some of the small stalls will also sell strawberries, as these are also in season.

Storing

Asparagus tastes best when cooked on the day you buy it. If you are not going to prepare them on the same day, you could store them in a shallow airtight container in the fridge.
You can also store them in the fridge by wrapping them tightly in foil or plastic wrap. They should last 3 – 5 days like that.
Others suggest storing them standing up in a glass jar with some water inside (around 2.5 cm – enough to cover the ends). Loosely cover it then with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for about a week.

Preparing

Get rid of the woody ends. You can either cut them off or brake them off. Here is a video explaining how to prepare and cook asparagus.
The green variety usually don’t need peeling. The white variety must be peeled. You can buy a special Asparagus peeler (Spargeschäler)  for that.
Some bigger shops will peel them for you.
Here is an example of one on Amazon

Recipes

The most classic way to eat white asparagus in Germany is with boiled potatoes, Ham and hollandaise sauce.
Personally I love baking them wrapped in foil in the oven (see how to do it here), they taste much better that way. You can also throw them on a braai if you like.

A surprising ingredient in most recipes are a bit of sugar, whether you bake them in foil or cook them in water.

You can find some German recipes here:

English recipes:

Asparagus Road

The 120 km long Asparagus road starts in the city of Schwetzingen . They claims to be the “Asparagus Capital of the World” and holds an annual Spargelfest.
It then pass Karlsruhe, Bruchsal and ends in Rastatt which has the biggest asparagus farm in Europe. Many towns/regions crown an annual asparagus queen (Spargelköningin) who reigns over the festivities.

More info here