This post should come as no surprise to those of you who have heard me (and Kristin and Tiffany) make fun of the Germans’ love of white asparagus and serving it up as part of an all-white meal. White asparagus is king here, and the fatter the stems, the better. Slim green asparagus: no way Jose!
Before you get the wrong idea, I should clarify that I like all asparagus, white included. And I even like the way they serve it here. It just never would have occurred to me before.
May is officially asparagus season, or Spargelzeit as it’s known here, and Berlin is flooded with print and tv ads complete with asparagus jingles. Markets, grocery stores and special asparagus stands offer different classes of asparagus based on size and color, with the fattest and whitest specimens going for as much as €10/kg. The best asparagus (at least in Berlin-Brandenburg) comes from Beelitz, to the southwest of Berlin. I suspect it’s all about marketing, and Beelitz has almost become a brand. Hence the huge price difference between Beelitz asparagus and non-Beelitz asparagus, which sells for as little as €2-3/kg.
Asparagus is most often served with potatoes, sometimes ham, and Hollandaise sauce or melted butter. No joke. That’s it. You sometimes end up with 8-10 stems swimming in Hollandaise and a pile of potatoes to go with them. It’s a bit outrageous in my opinion. (I also don’t quite understand the Germans’ love of potato-only or potato-based meals, but that’s a post for another day). White asparagus also differs from the green asparagus we’re used to in North America in that the stems are quite woody and need to be peeled before they are cooked. This seemed odd to me at first, but the outside layer is really stringy. The peeled stems can also become quite stringy if they’re overcooked, whereas undercooked white asparagus is rather tough. In restaurants, you’re more likely to get overcooked asparagus.
Green asparagus does exist here now (it used to be harder to find), but it is often almost as thick as the white asparagus and not bright green. No wonder Germans prefer white asparagus if this is all they have to compare it to!