Asparagus is my favorite vegetable, and in Deutschland, it has only solidified its position above broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Everything about German asparagus is bigger and better. I love the word “asparagus,” but the Germans have found an even catchier handle: Spargel. Around the beginning of May, the country went Spargel-crazy. Most restaurants sprouted special Spargel menus, wine shops advertised the best wines to pair with the Spargel you would certainly be eating. The grocery stores cleared out whole quadrants to display Spargel and its fixings. Germany boasts the Best Spargel in the World, and we eat it like we believe it.
My experience of asparagus heretofore has been of succulent slender spears, steamed to a bright green crunch. Spargel, while also delicious, is a totally different animal…er…vegetable. It’s subterranean white, stocky (stalky?), and a far more serious undertaking. Unfortunately, the local stuff sells for around 9 Euros/kilo ($5.50/lb.), but we picked up some more reasonably priced Greek imports on our recent vacation to the Baltic Coast with our German friends.
I’m glad we got an authentic Spargel lesson before trying this on our own. I would have gone about it all wrong. None of this green asparagus laziness of snapping off the ends and plopping them in the steamer for a few minutes. Aspiring Spargel chefs must first peel the vegetable almost all the way to the tip, and down through quite a few layers.
Then the peeled spears boil in a water bath for 30 minutes. Finally, douse them with hollandaise sauce and enjoy. But don’t throw out the water bath because if you’re lucky, your resident German will turn it into Spargel soup for the next day.