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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Transatlantic‹  ›Kultur/Culture‹  ›EN‹   –  30.05.2012

Let me count the ways… Asparagus, again.

Back in March, I wrote about the plastic landscape asparagus growers have created throughout southwest Germany. They hope to force the tender stalks a few days earlier in order to get the first harvest. Here, in the US, we’re deep in green asparagus country – the familiar white version, so common in Europe, is hardly to be found. A look at two different asparagus cultures.

In Germany, asparagus is kind of a cult vegetable. It’s all about being seasonal and when asparagus season is upon us, boy, everybody has just got to have it. There are special farm stands at every corner (even in the city) and it’s on the menu in every restaurant. Though asparagus is a seasonal vegetable here in the States as well, I have never had the impression of there being an outright “asparagus season” in that same, almost frenzied sense. Unless, of course, you have a bed of the tasty treats growing behind your house.

first asparagus heads of the seasonIt’s a good thing you don’t have to peel green asparagus, as you need all the time you can get to just keep up with the shoots as they emerge from the ground at record speed. The question “What’s for dinner?” never really arises during those 6 to 8 glorious weeks. It does, however, quickly beg another question: what else can we do with it?!

After the first rush of just savoring the fresh-cooked buttered sprouts straight up has eased off, it's time to be more creative. Asparagus on toast is a classic (and quick!) stand-by. Then there’s asparagus quiche and asparagus risotto. We’ve had cream of asparagus soup, of course, and on hot days there’s the salad option, both raw and cooked. You can throw it in a stir-fry, perhaps even a curry. I’m thinking about trying it in bread some time. Any other ideas? I’m grateful for any suggestions!

This year, though, we’ve discovered a serious down-side about growing green asparagus: the dreaded asparagus beetle. It feasts on the yummy stalks and can later decimate the ferns, thus seriously endangering next year’s crop. I could imagine they would not be such a threat for the white version, safely growing underground.

But no matter if it’s white or green, the beauty of a short-seasoned vegetable is always the sense of urgency combined with pure delight while the harvest lasts, followed by that slight sense of loss after the last spears are picked. By that time, though, there’s more garden bounty awaiting cooks to do them justice in the kitchen. Bon appetite!