Asparagus, or spargel in German, holds an almost mystical significance in Germany and specifically in Berlin.
Asparagus season falls upon us cloaked in excitement and sparks an enthusiasm akin to a child on Christmas morning.
A friend of mine, an Berliner born and raised, was telling me recently how Germans could sit and talk about asparagus for hours. How they prep them, where they buy them and most importantly, how to eat them.
White spargel is king here and far superior to their green brothers and a revered crop comes every year grown in a place called Beelitz found in the surrounding county of Brandenburg around Berlin. When you see that 'erste Beelitzer spargel' sign (first Beelitz asparagus) at the market, you know there is going to be an asparagus frenzy. There will even be signs giving warning when just a few days remain of the season to buy your spargel.
This is fueled by the fact the season is quite short, lasting from the end of April/start of may until traditionally the 24th June or Johannistag/ Midsummersday, thus adding to the magical air surrounding the season that is spargel.
You can visit asparagus farms in Beelitz where you can watch the asparagus be prepared and then follow up with a visit to the on site restaurant where you can enjoy freshly prepared spargel perhaps with a Hollandaise sauce and schnitzel, a very popular way to serve it.
Seasonality and respect for vegetables is prominent here in Germany. Shopping in the supermarkets is clearly defined by the season, at least in comparison to the UK where I'm from. Another great example is kale. My green juices and superfood salads are restricted to the Winter months and my inner hipster mourns.
I hate to be a blasphemer but personally I prefer the green variety. This opinion was met with outrage when I was talking to my boyfriend's German Father about asparagus. Despite having lived away from Germany for over 50 years, and his exposure to the English love of green asparagus , he still considers the white far superior and refined in flavour, of which he argued with some vehemence. The German love for white spargel runs deep. Out of respect to him and Berlin, I'll share a white asparagus recipe I came up with last week.
An asparagus trick is to take each one and put pressure on it until it snaps. Where it snaps should be where the stalk becomes too woody and not right for eating.