09 June 2011
Posted in Food Stories
I love white asparagus, because it is the one vegetable that can hold its own in presentation in varied ways. Have it in a soup or prepare it in a salad. Often they are simply steamed in a pot and topped with a hollandaise sauce. This ivory coloured asparagus is regarded as elegant, the reason many restaurants in our area feature it on their menu as a delicacy, and there is never a shortage of this spring vegetable which fills the plastic crates at our local food market. The Saprgelzeit is a distinctive period in Germany, from the harvesting period starting in April to the traditional finish-up date, June 24; the feast of St. John the Baptist.
No other vegetable demonstrates spring like these emerging stalks that stem from the darkness. During their growth, the molds of dirt are covered under white plastic to deprive their stalks from the sunlight's it is called an etiolating period which stops the asparagus from turning green. Here in the state of Baden-Württemberg they pride themselves as the prime asparagus-growing region in Germany and their asparagus export extends overseas. This region is referred to as the "Asparagus Route" that runs close to Karlsruhe then through to the city of Schwetzingen. This city claims to be the "Asparagus Capital of the World" as their International visitors flock in to attend the city's annual festival's an abundance of asparagus and plenty of entertainment can be found here, and they also crown their very own asparagus queen! Nationally, it has been quoted that 70,000 tons of asparagus have been produced each year in Germany.
When buying asparagus, make sure that the stems are firm and pump with a slightly sheen appearance and that the tips are intact and firm. The best time to serve the vegetable would be at midday when the asparagus is freshly picked in the early morning; their flavour is heighten! A few restaurants in the area do prepare them this way, but it is not practical for majority of us asparagus buyers. When they are not being cooked immediately, it is best to wrap them in a damp kitchen towel then stored in the crisper of the fridge. When ready to prepare, wash the stalks and peel them with a vegetable peeler starting from the base of the bud to the bottom of the stalk (see pictures below). Our local asparagus farmer recommends to cook them in a steamer for 12 minutes for the thinner variety and 15 minutes for the slightly thicker stalks by placing them in a shallow pot or a narrow asparagus steamer. The latter comes with an inserted colander where the asparagus can stand upright in the pot. Many asparagus cooks add a little sugar, salt or even a knob of butter to their cooking water.
There is only a short time to make use of this elegant vegetable before it is goes out of season, but for now you may like to look at the white asparagus with morchel recipe.