The summer season marks more than just patio weather and pint slinging for the Germans (not that a mass bier is ever out of season in land of the Reinheitsgebot) – after months of subterranean hibernation, the delicate and delicious white asparagus finds its short seasonal peak.
Harvested for a mere two months out of the year, the sweeter, more tender sibling to green asparagus can be found at roadside stands and on the plates of families across Germany from the end of April through June. Covering the stalks with soil as they grow, the asparagus is deprived of sunlight, and consequently photosynthesis cannot occur, giving the coveted veg its pale colour and softer core.
Deprived of the light throughout its life, this German delicacy soaked up the entire spotlight at this year’s White Asparagus Dinner presented by The Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Held annually at the Grand Banking Hall at One King West Hotel, this spargelfest is a chance to showcase the summer’s harvest alongside German wines and preparations divine.
With a Warsteiner or a glass of Müllheimer Sonnhalde in hand, expats from Bavaria to Brandenburg and asparagus enthusiasts gathered to toast the German Consul General, Mrs. Sabine Sparwasser, as she prepares to leave her post after four years. Though Mrs. Sparwasser’s admirable achievements were certainly topics for conversation throughout the evening, the major focus fell on our plates.
Steamed to perfection, the white asparagus was served with a traditional siding of hollandaise sauce and drawn butter. Even with the accompanied Westphalian sliced ham, a dry cured and cold smoked ham, it was the spargel that stole the show. Thick and sweet – a perfect partner to the salty protein and tender fingerling potatoes. I could see why they make the effort to import the celebrated stalks all the way from Germany rather than the Peruvian harvests that are more commonly found in Canada’s grocery stores.
Tipping back my glass of Müllheimer Reggenhag, Spätburgunder Rotwein Spätlese (mentioned because it was a specifically great bottle of German wine) and savouring a bite of chocolate fudge cheesecake, I was longing for the summer I spent in Germany some seven years ago. We’re lucky to have access to great German beer and wine all year round, but when spargelsaison is in season, I suggest you scoop up as much of this sweet veg as possible.