White Asparagus: How to Cook and Enjoy It (Like the Germans do)
Its springtime in Germany and from the Alps to the North Sea a great cry can be heard: „Jetzt ist Spargle Zeit! ” Loosely translated it means that asparagus season has begun - (though now a-days, thanks to quick transport from warmer lands, you can get white asparagus anytime of the year). In Germany, spring is synonymous with asparagus. Not your regular green variety, mind you. We are talking about thick stalks of white asparagus with pale lavender tips. A delicacy so revered that for a couple short months it replaces meat as the main part of the meal. No small accomplishment, in a land that considers any meal without meat to be incomplete.
In April, the markets will start displaying imports from Greece but, by May asparagus from Schrobenhausen will start to trickle in kicking off orgies of asparagus eating never seen by the likes of this American. Schrobenhausen, a region in Bavaria, is to asparagus what France is to wine. It is the “tip of the stalk,” so to speak and for that, you can expect to pay a premium price. However, at the height of asparagus season you can buy a kilo (2.2 lbs) for around €5 ($6.50) which isn’t bad.
How to Enjoy White Asparagus
There are many ways to enjoy this delicacy and the creativity of German chefs never ceases to amaze me but
of all the ways to prepare asparagus “klassisch ” or classic, is
my favorite. However, maybe I should back up… the perfect meal starts
at the market. You should choose creamy white stalks (the thicker the
better because this makes for easier peeling) with pale lavender to
The bottoms should be cleanly cut and
free of mold and if you see any brown discoloration or if the stalks
appear to be dried out then move on.
Once you get your asparagus home, you
need to peel it (starting just below the head) and then cut off about
inch from the bottoms. Naturally, it’s best to have an “asparagus pot,”
so that the stalks stand up and are boiled on the bottom and steamed on
top but if you don’t have one of these then any large pot will do. Just
tie the asparagus up in a bundle with kitchen twine so they stand
White Asparagus Recipe
Make sure you fill the pot with enough water to cover the
first one third of the stalks (but don’t put the asparagus in yet). To
the water, you should add the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon, about
a tablespoon of sugar, salt and a good half cup of white wine vinegar.
When the water comes to a boil add the asparagus and let them cook for
about 20 minutes.
Serve with boiled potatoes and thinly
sliced assorted hams (Parma is my favorite even though it’s not
German—the nuttiness of the meat compliments the asparagus perfectly). A
really good olive oil seasoned with garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper
(maybe a little grated ginger) or just plain melted butter are our
family’s favorite sauces but many people would
argue that sauce Hollandaise is best… Why don’t you decide for
Article by Anne Alexander Sieder