Thursday, 26 May 2016

On the trail of asparagus

Green and white asparagus - image courtesy German National Tourist Office

What’s green in England and white in Germany? The answer, most commonly at least, is asparagus. Both are excellent, their taste enhanced by the brevity of the season, which acts as a sort of asparagus interruptus. In Germany much more is made of it. Chalk written notices outside restaurants trumpet that der Spargelsaison has arrived. Roadside kiosks selling it open all over the place. It’s not unusual to find, on a menu, a dish incorporating a whole kilo of it, sometimes eaten with ham. There’s still time to drive over for the current season, which ends officially on midsummer’s day, June 24, or Johannistag –said also to be the birthday of St John the Baptist – sometimes called Spargelweihnachten or Spargelsylvester (asparagus Christmas or New Year’s Eve). The popularity of the vegetable was given a big leg up by French King Louis X1V, though there’s no record of him saying “let them eat asparagus”. It became established on princely tables in what is now Germany after the Elector of Palatine developed a taste for it around the end the 18th century. The German National Tourist Office is now promoting two “asparagus trails”. One in Baden, the other in Lower Saxony.

Lower Saxony trail - image courtesy German National Tourist Office

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