Spargel and Spargelzeit

It’s coming up to Spargelzeit in Germany, a wonderful time of the year. What exactly is Spargelzeit? Well, the term translates as “asparagus time,” and from mid-April to about mid-June, asparagus shows up everywhere, from roadside produce stands to restaurants featuring seasonal dishes.

Germans are especially fond of white asparagus and even the word “Spargel” refers to the white variety (the green variety is labeled Grünspargel, green asparagus). Grown under a pile of earth, white Spargel is colored as such because it is not exposed to light before it is harvested. It has been available in Germany starting in the 19th century and has a milder taste than green asparagus.

There are different classes of Spargel, from Klasse Extra/I, which is the highest quality, to Klasse II, that meets the minimum standards. The higher the class, the higher the price will be. Earlier in the season, Spargel is more expensive, even up to about 10-12 euros per kilogram. As more of the crop comes in, prices drop, sometimes to about 2 euros per kilogram. It is possible to buy Spargel at the grocery store, farmers’ markets, and even roadside stands.

More information about Spargel:

  • White Spargel must be peeled; the outside is rather chewy. Peel it from just below the tip down to the stem. The thicker the white Spargel is, the more of the outside must be peeled off.
  • While white asparagus is extremely popular in Germany, green asparagus is a wonderful vegetable in its own right. Green asparagus has more flavor, a high chlorophyll content, more vitamin C and more carotene than the other colors (white and violet).
  • There is a lot of asparagus-growing going on around Mannheim and Heidelberg. Schwetzingen, near both cities, has a nice castle and claims to be the asparagus capitol of the world.
  • Don’t cook Spargel in an aluminum pot; it reacts negatively and will turn gray.

Do as the Germans do and definitely give Spargel a try this spring! It can be prepared in many different ways, from being served whole with butter or Hollandaise sauce, to being made into soups and other tasty treats.