• Germany's news in English
 
Queen Asparagus reigns supreme over Germany
Photo: DPA

Queen Asparagus reigns supreme over Germany

Published: 25 Apr 2013 06:06 GMT+02:00

If you're new to Germany, you will have begun to hear a buzz everywhere by now. Do not be alarmed, this is normal. Just listen closely, it's only excited Germans talking about their Spargelsaison plans – that is, where they're going to buy, cook and consume piles of asparagus as it comes into season.

Asparagus can, of course, be quite delicious. But don't be surprised that the Germans almost exclusively favour the white version over its less fussy green cousin, or the seldom seen violet one.

It's hard to overstate the German obsession with this vegetable. And their hunger for it is growing: according to recent figures released by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Germans consumed 127,000 tonnes of asparagus last year, four percent more than the year before.

I might be partly responsible for this increase, seeing as how last year was my first year in Germany, and I fell in love with its subtle taste straight off.

Click here for the ultimate Spargel photo gallery

The white asparagus adoration in Germany is much like Indians' (including mine) obsession with mangoes, which you incidentally get around the same time in India as asparagus season in Germany, somewhere between April and June.

But here's how the asparagus craze in Germany is different from the mango craze in India: Mango is often called the 'King of fruits', but unlike Germany, where you have the concept of a Spargelkönigin or an Asparagus Queen, there is no mango royalty in India.

I spoke to the current reigning Asparagus Queen of North-Rhine Westphalia, 20-year-old Katharina Rau, who when she's not reigning over her vegetable realm, is studying to become a teacher of English and Catholic Theology.

I asked her about the pageant, which I had gleefully imagined as a group of hopefuls answering questions about asparagus and demonstrating how well they could pluck and peel it. "It wasn't a competition with a jury where we had to dance or something like that," Katharina said, disabusing me of my notions.

"I sent in my application with a photo of myself and what connects me to asparagus – the fact that I've been selling it at a farm for five or six years. They short-listed me and I then went in for an interview."

The duties of an Asparagus Queen, in case you were wondering, consist of representing the vegetable, attending press conferences, festival processions and basically promoting asparagus for the delicious treat that it is. I was still feeling disheartened by the fact that there's no jury and no talent round, but she cheered me up a bit when she added that she wears her crown and sash to all official appearances.

The simplest way to eat the white vegetable is to cook it in some boiling water and serve with some salt and butter. But it doesn't end there: Type 'Spargel Rezepte' in any search engine and it will almost explode. There are many, many recipes. Several of them are gourmet; some have secret recipes and are served only at certain restaurants. There are recipes with strawberries, roasted asparagus, cooked, steamed and fried asparagus.

But how do you know when it's fresh enough? The picking of the vegetable is given a lot of attention in the German media, an annual article being obligatory for every major publication.

Mention wanting to buy some and everyone bombards you with tips about checking to see how moist it is and how to best store it (in the fridge, wrapped in a moist cloth).

Here are a few more friendly, innocent facts I found: It's always peeled from up to down, starting at the head. It can be male, female and there are apparently also many transitioning or cross-over varieties. The male variety is (surprise, surprise), longer than the female one and also thin and elongated.

If all of that didn't make you giggle, hearing Germans say things like 'the head is the best bit' should do it.

They're right, of course. It is the yummiest bit. But strangely enough, there aren't a lot of jokes based on the vegetable's phallic shape.

When I asked some of the Germans I know if they knew any asparagus jokes, most gave me amused looks or rolled their eyes. Either way, the sentiment seemed to be: Why on earth would you want to joke about asparagus?

The point is, Germans love their Spargel and that love, being as deep as it is, blinds them to its funny side. "I don't think it's that," said Queen Katharina. "If there was a funny joke about asparagus, Germans would certainly be able to laugh at it and enjoy it. It's just that I haven't really ever heard one," she said laughing.

This year, the season has started later than usual because of what I'm calling 'The Winter That Refused To End.' So Spargel innocents, prep yourself by getting a good Spargeltopf, the special tall saucepans the vegetable is typically cooked in. Eat your fill till about the end of June, when the season ends.

And if you find that hard to remember, remember the old Franconian saying: Kirsche rot, Spargel tot or "When the cherry's red, the asparagus is dead."

Mithila Borker

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany
Joachim Löw holding the World Cup trophy. File photo: DPA

Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany

World Cup winners Germany have suffered something of a hangover since their triumph in Brazil, but coach Joachim Löw is hoping a new-look side can go on to claim more glory at Euro 2016. READ  

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges
Photo: DPA

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges

German mobile phone company T-Mobile has agreed to pay at least $90 million to settle US government claims that it bilked customers with bogus charges, US regulators said Friday. READ  

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law
Photo: DPA

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law

The German Ethics Council said the law should not be changed to permit assisted suicide in a paper published on Friday. READ  

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin
Swan Lake. An abandoned ride in the Spreewald pleasure park. Photo: DPA

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin

The iconic ruined themepark in the centre of Berlin - a long-time favourite of hipster adventurers - needs a clean-up costing at least 14 million euros, the Berlin government has revealed. READ  

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer
File photo of Nuremberg main station: Shutterstock

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer

Officers in Nuremberg arrested a man on Thursday evening after he called in a false bomb threat against the main train station READ  

Opinion
Angela, David...and Nigel
So near...and yet so far Photo: DPA

Angela, David...and Nigel

The rise of UKIP broke up what had been a good 2014 for Cameron and Merkel. READ  

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead
Dr Gunther von Hagens. Photo: DPA

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead

A Berlin court has said that infamous human taxidermist Gunther von Hagens can open a museum in the capital - over objections from local officials. READ  

Presented by Phorms Education
Phorms bilingual schools boast top-notch tech
Photo: Phorms Education

Phorms bilingual schools boast top-notch tech

As parents fret over children’s internet habits, a network of bilingual schools in Germany shows that putting computers in the classroom from an early age yields positive results. READ  

Networks scramble to patch mobile security
Chancellor Angela Merkel has herself been the victim of phone hacking. Photo: DPA

Networks scramble to patch mobile security

IT experts led by Berlin-based Karsten Nohl said on Thursday they had discovered security flaws in the mobile phone networks that would allow attackers to read users' messages. READ  

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport
Photo: DPA

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport

Three men suspected of being Turkish agents have been arrested by police, federal prosecutors said on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,228
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd