I rarely think about asparagus without remembering living in Germany and seeing the piles of white asparagus or spargel that the Germans prized so highly in the shops in Rinteln. A special spring treat grown under odd (to my eye) hills of dirt to keep it from greening up, this asparagus was thick, sturdy, slower to cook than ours, and sometimes very happily heavily sauced. Our Russian housecleaner, an asparagus afficionado herself, enjoyed horrifying me with stories of her country’s custom of letting farm stock eat asparagus — green asparagus, that is — that grew wild in the field. Not fit for human consumption, it was just animal food to her. Great for cattle or pigs. Eeeeecchhh. (Read here for a recipe for spargel.) Knowing how many years we Americans spend developing our asparagus gardens, this made for teeth-clenching mental pictures.
Here and now in the U.S., we often can find asparagus all year round if we eat Fed Ex vegetables, but it is most precious and thrilling in the spring when it is the quintessential harbinger of all the tasty freshness still to come. I adore cooking the thicker asparagus — I think it’s a bit more flavorful and even more tender as long as you peel the bottom third — but the tall, slim stalks are many shopper’s favorites and that’s what was in the story yesterday. Continue reading