Asparagus – The "Royal" Vegetable
German Comfort Food: "Asparagus, The Royal Vegetable"
If you are in Germany at springtime and you ask: "What's for dinner today?", A reasonably answer you will get is: "Asparagus of course!"
Asparagus is one vegetable, that enjoys incredible popularity in Germany. Especially when in season, you will hardly find a people that makes a comparable fuss around this vegetable as we Germans do.
Asparagus is being used in many different cuisines around the world and is by no means a native vegetable to Germany.
So why do we Germans love Asparagus so much?
We find a possible answer if we look at history for a minute.
Already in ancient times, asparagus was well known and liked for its flavor and health benefits. As far as can be said, it was most likely the Chinese that discovered asparagus as food and healing plant.
Their discovery spread to the Greeks, Persians and of course the Romans who were absolutely crazy about asparagus.
For the Romans, asparagus was a hugely important part of every hurry (and we know they had many of them) and it is there before that surprise that detailed instructions on how to grow and cultivate asparagus can be found in an ancient Roman book from as early as 175 BC
Legend has it, that the Roman emperor Augustus was so obsessed with asparagus, that he even used it when giving orders to his servants.
It is being said, that every order heaved ended with the phrase: "citius quam asparagus coqunatur" which means something like: "Do this quicker than the time it takes to cook asparagus!"
As we all know, when the Roman Empire spread across Europe it did not only bring death and destruction with it but also good things, of which one would be asparagus. The natives quickly discovered its benefits for them and started growing asparagus where ever it would thrive.
In Germany especially the regions along the rivers Danube, Rhein and Main had and have the right soil and climate for growing this little gem of a vegetable. It turned out that asparagus was even exported from those Germanic regions to the Romans.
In the following centuries however, asparagus was not cultured on a large scale anymore. Most likely because of its complexity and the input of work asparagus demands from its cultivator. It was mainly found in small monastery gardens where monks cultivated it for its health benefits.
In the 17th century it was the royalty in Germany, that discovered asparagus as delicacy for themselves again and it slowly spread to other, better off houses in the country.
For the ordinary and poor folks asparagus never made it to the dinner table, as the work load to grow it seemed way to high for a vegetable that was certainly tasted nice, but only gave little nutrition to a hard working man or woman and could only be enjoyed for a couple of weeks in the year. Little did they know in those days what a great nutritious vegetable asparagus is.
In the 19th century, when conservation was invented, asparagus went on a rampage in Germany. More and more farmers decided to cultivate asparagus on a big scale and it was also then, when asparagus changed its color from green to white in Germany.
Farmers covered the slips to keep the soil warm, which caused the asparagus to stay pale as it would be underground.
It was tasted and people found that it was even nicer and more delicate than the green asparagus and from then on it was the white asparagus that people bought after.
As you can see, if we are talking about asparagus in relation to German cuisine, we are actually primarily talking about white asparagus.
White asparagus is nothing less than a cult in Germany.
There are many different regions in Germany where white asparagus is cultured and if you talk to someone from such a region, they will swear that their asparagus is the best.
It reminds a bit of people supporting a local sports team. They would never have asparagus from a different region pass their lips.
Out of this love for white asparagus rejected many different recipes of course and I would like to share the recipe for "White Asparagus Soup" with you:
1 lbs. white asparagus
3 cups of salted water
1 teaspoon of sugar
4 1/2 oz. butter
1 1/2 oz. flour
1 tablespoon of chicken stock (powder)
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup of cream
1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Peel the asparagus and cut into junks, appr. 1 – 1.5 inches long. Bring salted water to a boil and add the sugar. Now add the asparagus junks.
Boil for appr. 15 minutes.
Strain the water from the asparagus but do not waste the water. Catch it in a separate saucepan or something similar.
Heat 1.5 oz of the butter, add the flour when the butter has melted, while stirring continuously.
Now slowly add the asparagus water that you caught in a separate saucepan.
Then add the chicken stock and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the cooked asparagus junks.
Whisk the cream and egg yolk and lemon juice together and pour it in, a little at a time. Make sure you stir though while doing so and very important, DO NOT LET IT BOIL!
Melt the rest of the butter in the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley when serving.