Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spargel Zeit! (Asparagus Season)

From April to June, it´s Spargel Zeit here in Germany! You have probably seen signs advertising Frisch Fränkischer Spargel- it´s a PGI (protected geographical indication). 

According to The Local, Germans consumed 127,000 TONNES of asparagus during the 2012 season. The most typical here is the white asparagus, but violet and green can also be found. 

What are the differences? 
- Green asparagus is allowed to hit sunlight, photosynthesis is responsible for the color. Generally, it is best picked early, and the skinnier the stalk, the better. A thicker stalk will be more woody. Before cooking, "snap" the stalk to get rid of the woody ends. 

- Violet occurs when the white asparagus hits sunlight, you can often see purple stripes on the white versions. While Germans generally consider this variety less desirable, countries like France prefer it. 

- White asparagus has not been allowed to see the sun, which is why it is so expensive. Farmers manually cover the fresh asparagus up to twice a day with dirt as it grows. As opposed to green asparagus, the thickness of the stalk does not effect the texture of the vegetable. To tell if it is fresh, squeeze the ends, and a little liquid should come out.  The straighter and thicker the stalk, the more expensive it will be. 

There are three classes of asparagus in Germany. 
"Extra - Minimum diameter of 12 mm (15/32 inch), no hollow cores, perfectly straight and all white. Most expensive.
Handelsklasse I (HK I) - Minimum diameter of 10 mm (3/8 inch), light bending, light coloration (violet). Good value.
Handelsklasse II (HK II) - Minimum diameter of 8 mm (5/16 inch), curved stalks allowed, slightly opened flower heads, more color than HK I and sometimes woody. Good for soup stock and students."
To prepare the white - peel the outer layers- many smaller stands will offer to peel it for you, or give you a free peeler with purchase. Rather than the "snap" method with the green, cut any dry and tough ends with a knife. 

Take advantage of the season, and head to a restaurant with a Spargel Karte! (A special menu for the season). Schiesshaus Nürnberg  or one of these in Nürnberg for example. Most will have a cream of asparagus soup, an asparagus salad, asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, and likely something with ham as well. 
Here are 58 asparagus recipes from Cooking Light magazine, though most will show the green varieties.
This website has several typical German asparagus recipes (in German). 
German asparagus recipes from Yummly, in English. 
What´s your favorite asparagus recipe? 

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