Spargel season is slowly beginning here in Germany, which generally goes hand-in-hand with strawberry season. At the moment, a lot of what is available is still from France (especially the strawberries) but the first devilishly expensive German strawberries are also hitting the markets and it will be no time at all before there are Spargel stands on every corner.

Spargel, also known as asparagus, is a pretty big deal here in Germany and there are even local festivals to celebrate the harvest where you can eat asparagus prepared in every way imaginable for about a week (a lot of the local restaurants serve special Spargel dishes in addition to the basics served at the fair grounds).It is estimated that 82,000 tons of Spargel are actually produced here in Germany each year — which only meets about 61% of consumption needs. When I tell you that the Germans love asparagus, I’m really not kidding!

I have to admit that we have shied away from Spargel quite a bit in recent years. I don’t know if it was the sheer overload of seeing it talked about everywhere or just not being 100% certain what to do with the white variation which is so popular here. But the green is also beginning to be more readily available here and I’m looking forward to cooking up some Spargel this year.

What is the difference between Spargel and asparagus?

In Germany, Spargel is the term for asparagus, but it really is more commonly used to refer to the white variation which is so popular here. White asparagus is no different than regular asparagus, expect that it is grown underground in little mounds. Therefore, no photosynthesis occurs, keeping the stalks from turning green. The white variation has a slightly milder, sweeter flavor.

Green asparagus is usually best when picked early, because it will get every woody and tough. White asparagus, on the other hand, can be grown for a while and the thickness has no impact on the tenderness…but white asparagus should always be peeled before you prepare it. Never snap white asparagus lite you do the green — trim any woody ends off instead. You’ll waste far too much Spargel with the snap method.

When you buy asparagus fresh at the market, you can usually get it pre-peeled but you’ll want to eat it the same day you buy it. If you don’t get it peeled, you can store it just like salad in a damp dish towel in your refrigerator for an extra day. But this is definitely not something you buy on Tuesday to eat on Friday! Freshness matters if you don’t want tough stalks.

Buying Spargel

Finding a place to buy Spargel in Germany while it’s in season should not be an issue. The straighter the stalk, the higher the quality and the more you will pay (up to €12 or more per kilo) but it’s not going to taste any different if it’s crooked.

You want the Spargel to be fresh so you will need to examine the cut ends — ALWAYS ask before handling the produce at markets in Germany. Squeeze the cut end just a bit and see if you can produce a bit of liquid — if yes, it’s good!

The thickness of the stalk really doesn’t matter but a thicker stalk will be easier to peel — so keep that in mind if you’ll be peeling yourself. And get yourself a handy asparagus peeler which has the peeling blade turned perpendicular to your hand.

If you’re thinking about growing your own asparagus or buying it in bulk to can, read these 12 don’t about asparagus first!

Recipes to Try

  • Paper-clip Asparagus with Crayfish
  • I saw this recipe being prepared years ago on TV here in Germany and I just KNEW I had to try it. That was forever ago and I still haven’t. But this year will be the year. No really…although might go with shrimp if the Flusskrebs evade me.

  • Flammkuchen with Spargel and Black Forest Ham

Mmmh, Flammkuchen! I’ve been thinking about making one of these paper-thin pizza-like creations for a while now — but you know me. I won’t be satisfied with store bought dough…I may have issues!

So simple, so elegant, so delicious!