Spargelzeit

Here in Germany, we are in the thick of Spargelzeit. The blossoms are blooming, the bees are buzzing and the Spargel is spargelling. It dominates menus, features in displays – with artfully arranged cartons of Hollandaise sauce – in supermarkets and just basically rules the food roost with a slender white fist. Never has asparagus been so revered.

The Germans are mad for Spargel, presumably because it means Spring is here, although I have my suspicions they just get excited about drowning foodstuff in Hollandaise sauce. Let’s face it, Spargel isn’t the most amazing of vegetables. It is relatively bland and anything tastes good when boiled in salty, buttery water and then smothered in a thick, creamy butter-based sauce, or indeed further lashings of actual butter. Not to take anything away from Spargel, but most vegetables would fair quite well with such treatment. In fact, I daresay many vegetables would emerge as a darn sight tastier.

But that is all beside the point. The point is, Spargelzeit is here, the crops have yielded billions of white fingers begging to be lopped, chopped, boiled and smothered and because we are in Germany, that is what we will do.

On a balmy evening this week, SG and I prepared our first Spargel dinner of the season. It must be said, the ritual associated with its preparation and the overall implication that you are eating this because the Winter is over and Spring is really here, is quite lovely. It’s nice to appreciate food because it is in season; it feels natural and deserved, special, like mangoes and pineapple in the summer.

We kept it wrapped in cold, damp kitchen towels (as instructed by both the internet and a knowing friend) until we were ready to eat it and then SG painstakingly peeled each spear. Being a peeling/chopping perfectionist, I was able to walk to the shops for a bottle of wine and prosciutto in the time it took him to prepare our two batches. Then we chopped off the ends, brought the water, butter, sugar and salt to boil and in went the Spargel. Ten minutes later, voila.

Traditionally Spargel is served with potatoes or large chunks of ham, two things I am not hugely fond of. Thankfully the shops were out of the big chunks of ham (Spargelzeit!) and we went with prosciutto instead. A bowl of melted butter, a bowl of warm Hollandaise sauce and dinner was ready. A big, buttery, creamy, piggy German dinner, with Spring’s evening sun slowly fading outside.

It has to be said, towards the end of Spargel season, one tends to get quite aggressively over the whole shamozzle, as I did last year. It isn’t just because you might overdo it – I only had it about 3 times last season – but because seeing it heralded, everywhere, as the second coming of vegetables, can wear a little thin. It’s only asparagus people. In fact, I seem to vividly recall losing my shit in about June last year …


17 thoughts on “Spargelzeit

  1. Now I hate Spargel but as the one in the family who cooks I can tell you there are many more Spargel dishes than boiled, Hollandaised, hammed and potatoed. You can roast it, put it in salads, make frikase, Spargel in cream sauce with little meatballs – it goes on. Luckily this time of year ladies magazines are crammed full of Spargel recipes. Like I said, I won’t touch it but if you like it at all there’s no better time to get it than when it’s so fresh and only around for about 8 weeks. And you don’t have to drink the Spargelwasser! 😀

  2. It is true, it is true, I should get more creative! Step away from the classic boiling and saucing. Roasted sounds quite delicious. I think I prefer green Spargel to white. Perhaps I shall try something creative with green Spargel next. Shall keep you posted!

  3. We were astonished one visit to Bavaria to be inundated with Spargel…a HUGE plate of Spargel plus sauce and nothing else. I think it would be very easy to get over the whole enthusiasm for it.

  4. Having lived in Alfter, Germany, which is in one of the (famous) asparagus areas, for more than 30 years, asparagus is one veggie I really miss here. Well, the white kind, that is. You can get it here, but it’s definitely not fresh. And that’s what’s needed with white asparagus: harvested in the morning and on the plate at dinner time. I really need to be back in the “Vorgebirge” [the region around Alfter] during “Spargelzeit”.
    I do like the green variety, though, which I can get here fresh, and that with some olive oil on it and then grilled.
    Best regards from southern Texas,
    Pit

  5. This delighted me so! I grew up with a German mother and have always been mystified at the Spargel frenzy that I would witness every time I was there for Spargelzeit. God, they just can’t get enough, and I never understood it. Quick! Buy more! The season is almost over!!! And then we would have it for 5 more meals….
    I was so amused that you wrote about this!

  6. I enjoy your blog very much since I found it on the internet two days ago. But on Spargel your’re wrong. IT IS an outstanding vegetable. 😀 It tastes wonderfully without Hollandaise or liquid warm butter. Just asparagus and ham or Schnitzel or steak or… simply itself. I know this is not understood by outsiders but asparagus is wonderfull and delicious for itself. And regarding the pictures I would like to give you the advise less is more: too much Hollandaise on it. 🙂

  7. I am a German living in the UK and I miss the seasonal foods. Spargel season, Strawberry, cherry, cauliflower, tomatoes….all in abundance during season and cheap. Eaten until sick of it, and then not seen again until next year. Of course even in Germany they are available out of season, but so expensive and tasteless, just not worth it. Here in the UK the veg isle has the same vegetables all year round, price rarely changes and flavour doesn’t either, always bitter and tasteless. I hate Spargel. Thankfully June is also the season for Strawberries and early Cherries 🙂

  8. I am one of those spargel-crazy krauts and even managed to infect my English wife with that craze. We live in the UK since I retired and sadly regret that white asparagus is unavailable over here. But whenever we come to Germany in the season we feast on it.

  9. Living in California (Napa) since 1990 we miss spargel very much. Scheduling trips to the old country in the spargelzeit competes with matjeszeit and federweissen-zeit. Back to spargel, the experience of properly eating the spears whole, sucking –slowly– the full length starting, of course, with the head, is an unsurpassable delight!

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