Warm weather is not the only thing which stirs up Germany in the springtime. Perhaps more important than that is asparagus, or in German – Spargel. The asparagus season runs from mid-April to June 24th and while this is too short for a nation that can’t get enough of the ‘royal vegetable’, Germans make the most of it and revel in the many Spargelfeste – asparagus festivals – held throughout the country.
All of Germany joins in the merrymaking but the biggest and most famous festivals are of course celebrated in regions where most of the Spargel are grown.
Part of enjoying the festivals is following a route that covers several asparagus fields, beautiful landscapes, museums, restaurants, and other cultural and historical landmarks. The Baden Asparagus Route is one of the more familiar of these routes. The state of Baden-Württemberg, where the Asparagus Triangle is found, has the kind of light and sandy soil that is ideal for cultivating white asparagus.
Schwetzingen, which is in the Asparagus Triangle together with the cities of Heidelberg and Mannheim, hosts the most famous Spargelfest on the first Saturday of May. The festivities traditionally take place outside the Schwetzingen Castle, which used to be the summer residence of Elector of Bavaria, Karl Theodor. However, the largest Spargelfest is celebrated in Bruchsal, also in Baden-Württemberg, every third Saturday of May, while the Beelitzer Spargelfest takes place during the last weekend of May.
Another well-travelled route is the Lower Saxony Asparagus Route, which at 750 kilometers, has a lot to keep you busy. It is said that a big chunk of Germany’s asparagus is grown in this region. Some of the asparagus-producing areas along this route include Brunswick, Lüneburg, Nienburg, and Hannover. Nienburg is home to the Lower Saxony Asparagus Museum and in Lüchow, the ‘Asparagus Sunday’ Festival is a must-see.
During the asparagus season, vendors sell the whitest, roundest, and most plump asparagus and offer special menus in honour of this beloved vegetable. Their great love for white asparagus allows them to be creative with appetisers, main dishes, and desserts all made with Spargel.
There are other things to look forward to at Spargelfeste aside from the food. Other highlights include Spargelessen – an organised group dinner of asparagus – parades, dancing and musical performances, and of course, the asparagus peeling competition.
White asparagus has to be skinned completely in order to get the best flavour. Those who have worked with asparagus can definitely confirm it is a challenge to take the skin off and you can expect some skills to be put to the test during the Spargelfeste.
And a little trivia for you: German chef Helmut Zipner is currently the world record holder in asparagus peeling. He was able to peel one ton of asparagus in 16 hours and earned the nickname Asparagus Tarzan. Spargelfeste also celebrate the Asparagus Kings and Queens who wear asparagus crowns and carry asparagus scepters while they preside over their festivals.
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