It is officially Spargelzeit. Asparagus season.
Asparagus is the first home grown fresh crop of the season, allegedly. After a long winter of Sauerkraut and pickled gherkins, the Germans can’t wait for fresh food to come round again, so they tell me.
Now, before you start sending food parcels, let me point out that in the days of supermarkets and year round fresh produce, this simply isn’t true … but the Germans still manage to believe it, despite all the evidence in their fridges and pantries. In reality these days, Spargelzeit is a bit like having chocolate at Easter when you didn’t actually fast during Lent.
Of course Spargel has been in the shops for weeks now – but that’s foreign asparagus. German asparagus is just coming into season now. It’s grown all around Germany – you can spot the tell-tale signs of an asparagus crop because you’ll see what looks like some sort of military or industrial pipeline installation. Sometimes all you see is black ridges of earth – as though giant moles had been crawling in parallel lines across the field. This is, of course, just a method of keeping the asparagus white by ensuring it doesn’t see the light of day.
Harvesting asparagus is back-breaking work… so on behalf of all ungrateful German gourmets I hereby offer heartfelt thanks to all the migrant labourers who schlepp over to Germany from Eastern Europe and beyond and do the awful job for the minimum wage (if they’re lucky). Every shoot has to be cut by hand and packed into a box for transport.
German restaurants abandon their entire regular menu at this time of the year, and introduce a special Spargelmenu… asparagus soup, asparagus salad, pasta with asparagus, ham with asparagus…. but the absolute classic is asparagus with sauce hollandaise and potatoes.
As a result of this culinary obsession with asparagus, conversation in Germany becomes very tedious at this time. Where there used to be animated debate about politics, literature, art and science, now there is only one topic which occupies the excitable brains of the teutonic nation.
Does asparagus make your urine smell?