Saturday, April 18, 2015

OMG - It's Spargel Season!!!

I'm not gonna lie. I flippin' LOVE weißer Spargel (white asparagus). In this too, I fit in well with my German neighbors. Weißer Spargel is practically a cult over here - Germans go mad for it and sit on the edges of their chairs with bated breath chafing under the vexatious restraint of waiting for the announcement that....Spargelsaison ist eröffnet! Then they run, drive, crawl, ride, or frolic jubilantly to the nearest local Spargel farmer where they buy at least a kilo of the glorious stalks that were picked that morning to be cooked that evening.

Neither Germans nor I care that Spargel turns one's pee a funny color or gives it temporarily a strange odor. Nobody bothers about its subtly phallic shape. It's doubtful they even care about the health benefits of eating Spargel. It's just damn delicious.

Four days ago, Google's search page let us know it was time to get out our Spargeltöpfe (asparagus pots):

While there is green asparagus in that picture as well, that stuff is nothing special. One can get that almost all year round, imported from God knows where. It's the white which is beloved in Germany and that has a limited season, so Germans eat as much of it as they can while they can, knowing that's it again until next spring. The season starts around mid-April and ends on June 24th. Yes, that's right, every year the Spargel picking season ends exactly on June 24th. That's Johannestag, or the Feast Day of St. John. Why does the season end then? Because that leaves at least 100 days until the next first frost, which is how much time the harvested Spargel plants need to grow back and gain enough strength to produce a good crop in the next season.

There are even helpful sayings about Spargel to help growers remember the rules:

"Kirschen rot, Spargel tot!"   "Cherries red, asparagus dead!"
"Stich den Spargel nie nach Johanni!"   "Never prick out asparagus after St. John's Day!" 

Germans ate an average of 1.5 kg of Spargel per person in 2014, which is why Spargel is the vegetable with the largest acreage of cropland in Germany (ca. 24,100 hectares).* That accounts for about 20% of Germany's vegetable cropland.

But enough with statistics that no one cares about. How do you cook this delicious goodness?!?

Our favorite home recipe is called "Spargel überbacken". Here we go:

  1 kg weißer Spargel  (white asparagus)
  3 liters water
  80g melted butter + 10g butter
  white pepper
  1/8 liter dry white wine
  300g ham
  40g grated Emmentaler cheese (oh, be serious - double that!)

(Serve with salad and boiled potatoes.)

The strange presentation is my fault. I'll keep trying.
  1. Wash and peel the Spargel (white must be well-peeled!!).  Wash it again and drain it.
  2. Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. 
  3. Add Spargel and cook for 15 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and let drain.
  4. Preheat oven to 200° (Ober- und Unterhitze)
  5. Lay Spargel in a casserole dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Pour melted butter and white wine over the Spargel.
  7. Cut ham into 3mm x 2cm strips. (Seriously? Can I have that in inches, please?) Spread over the Spargel.
  8. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top, drop pats of butter on top of the cheese.
  9. Bake at 200° for about 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and serve it right away, Baby!
Mama Mia! This dish isn't pretty, but it's doggone tasty! While it's in the oven it is literally lying in a buttery white wine bath. I'm getting teary-eyed just thinking about it.

Don't like ham, cheese, or white wine? Slap a steak on it and serve it with homemade Hollandaise sauce:

One of the menu items during Spargelsaison at Straub's Krone
I kid you not, every restaurant in Germany that serves German food has a special menu for Spargelsaison, so get it while you can. Remember, after June 24th, that's it except for the canned variety, which I had once in a crepe from a street vendor. Igitt!! 

We're such snobs we decided to wait for the first pickins to be grabbed by others, and I'll drive to the Spargel farm next week for our first kilo. That's right - I love weißer Spargel so much that I will actually drive alone several km from our house down a scary curvy two-lane highway to a narrow two-way farm road that is only wide enough for 1.5 cars with ditches on both sides, just to buy this stuff freshly picked.

White asparagus isn't really a thing in North America. Americans, you have no idea what you're missing.

*Source: "Woher stammt der Spargel?" Lukullus. B&L MEdienGesellschaft GmbH & Co. KG, Hilden. 17.04.2015.


  1. What a timely post! I was just talking to my husband today about white asparagus and how I haven't had it before but feel like I should try it since Germans seem to love it! Thanks for the recipe - looking forward to giving that a try!

    1. If you're doing it for the first time, remember it needs to be well-peeled. And definitely buy it at a market or farm, not in the grocery store. M and I will be very curious what you think as a newcomer to weißer Spargel. Do let us know what you think!

  2. My German boyfriend is surprisingly anti-Spargel, but that Spargel Überbacken recipe may be enough to change his mind... Maybe we'll try it out this weekend.