The white gold of the Lower Rhine

Mmm, tasty: asparagus from the Lower Rhine. These royal vegetables cannot be missing on any plate in spring. Asparagus thrives in the sandy soil between the Rhine and Meuse rivers and promises real enjoyment.

Asparagus represents spring and summer freshness that can be tasted. It contains many vitamins and minerals and is therefore considered a particularly healthy vegetable. Asparagus from the Lower Rhine is not only extremely nutritious but also low in calories. Most of all, it is one thing: really tasty.

The Romans cultivated the present-day noble vegetable between the Rhine and Meuse 2,000 years ago. Through breeding, they made sure that asparagus (or ‘Spargel’ in German) lost its bitter taste. And laid the roots for the fact that the Lower Rhine is a real asparagus stronghold today.

Asparagus is plucked from the soil

That the vegetables grown along the Lower Rhine taste especially good is down to the sandy soil. This gives the vegetable its delicate flavour. Asparagus feels comfortable here. It shies away from sunlight, thriving underground. There, below the soil, the young shoots are painstakingly handpicked when the ‘head’ sees the light of day. But after the harvest, asparagus blossoms into the queen of vegetables.

The spears are harvested from the fields from about mid-April. Asparagus naturally tastes best fresh from the farm, where it is sold straight after it is picked. Anyone with a ravenous appetite for ‘white gold’ usually eats it the classic way with boiled ham, potatoes and butter, accompanied by a glass of white wine.

Gourmand tours and asparagus festivals

But there are numerous versions. Asparagus with salmon trout sounds as promising as pan-fried asparagus or a Spargelstecher-Brotzeit (an asparagus picker’s snack). And even asparagus ice cream has been sighted. Many restaurants in the region have adapted to customer demand by keeping special asparagus menus at hand. Gourmand tours with culinary cycling tours based on the royal vegetable are offered, asparagus festivals are celebrated, and an asparagus princess is even selected.

But the season is short, so New Year’s Eve is celebrated in the middle of summer in the Lower Rhine: harvesting season for the royal vegetable ends on 24th June, St John’s Day. And it’s also called ‘Asparagus New Year’s Eve’.

Asparagus classically

Asparagus classically

First of all, there are countless asparagus dishes. It’s purely a matter of taste, of course. New potatoes and melted butter classically belong with asparagus. Hollandaise sauce is also frequently used. Dry-cured or boiled ham, fish or schnitzel are served with asparagus.

Preparing asparagus should be kept simple. Add some salt, sugar and lemon juice to boiling water, then the asparagus, and let it stand. You can also put a little butter in the boiling water. The spears should be completely covered with water. Cooking time: approx. ten minutes depending on how thick the asparagus is.

White or green?

What exactly is the difference between white and green asparagus? In short: white asparagus grows underground in so-called asparagus trenches and is picked when its ‘head’ sees the light of day. Green asparagus grows above ground and thus forms chlorophyll, which gives it its green colour.

White asparagus is considered nobler, more delicate and tastes milder. In contrast, green asparagus supposedly contains more vitamins. And: the ‘green’ variety doesn’t need to be peeled. Only its woody ends have to be removed. In contrast, it has to be boiled for slightly longer.

White asparagus is more popular in Germany: its share is around 90 percent.

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