With Spring upon us in just a few days, nothing welcomes the new season like Spargel or asparagus. Popular throughout Germany, the delicious white vegetable makes the perfect side dish, especially smothered in hollandaise sauce when the days becomes longer and the flowers begin to bloom.
Spargelzeit, which literally means asparagus time, begins in late March and traditionally lasts until the end of June. During that time restaurant menus are filled with various asparagus recipes – anything from salads to a Schnitzel sidekick or even an entire pizza. Germans go mad for the delicious flavor of the white spears.
Asparagus has been cultivated since ancient times, but it gained popularity in Germany in the 15th century when it was planted for royalty in Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg. Unlike its green asparagus counterpart, white asparagus has a tough, bitter outer layer that must be removed before cooking. Both green and white asparagus are basically the same vegetable, only white asparagus is grown under mulch and dark plastic, never exposing it to light.
Many people in Germany believe that white asparagus has a more delicate taste and I would totally agree. It is more tender and makes for the perfect side dish no matter what is on your plate, like meat, fish or simply tossed with some strawberries to make a light salad. Steaming the spears is the most popular way to eat white asparagus in Germany.
White asparagus tends to be thicker than the green variety and making sure to peel and cut it right takes a little bit of a learning curve. In our family, my Oma is definitely the one who has the magic hand. Her asparagus always comes out melt-in-your-mouth tender. If not peeled and cut right, white asparagus can taste holzig or woody.
Before cooking white asparagus, simply peel the asparagus with a peeler leaving the tip intact. How much needs to be taken off depends on each individual spear. Using a small knife, also cut the bottom a little. Traditionally, white asparagus is boiled in salt water and smothered in hollandaise sauce in our house or topped with brauner butter or brown butter. Braune butter is easy to make by simply heating butter in a little pan over the stove and adding bread crumbs after the butter is melted and stirring it until the bread crumbs have absorbed all of the liquid. Just don’t forget to stir, otherwise the butter will burn.
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