Spargelzeit in May is one of the two times each year that the normally reserved Germans get very excited about food. At this time of year the reason is asparagus, or to be more exact white asparagus. In Ireland we see very little of this wonderful vegetable except for some very sorry dried out specimens from Peru or Kenya. These are not the real thing, so I would urge you to try them if you’re in Germany or anywhere in central Europe at this time or get someone to bring a kilo or two home. Once you’ve tasted good fresh white asparagus, I think you might find it hard to get too excited about the green variety.
It is best to buy you asparagus directly from the grower or at least in the market. It really should be picked that morning. When you buy it, go for spears that are a little thicker than your thumb. Make sure the bottoms are not cracked as this is a sure sign they are drying out. Normally the spears should be kept damp by the seller. When you get them make sure to wrap them up tight. If you can, spinkle a little water on the them first. You can then store them for a day or two in the fridge.
To cook, you need to peel the stalks generously first, using a vegetable peeler. It’s best to lay them flat when doing this as they can easily snap. Trim the ends and reserve. There are purpose-designed asparagus pots, in which the asparagus is cooked standing up, and these are your best bet. However if you don’t have one a large frying pan is fine. Cook in lightly salted water until tender. You can also put a pinch of sugar in the water if you find the taste a little bitter. Don’t be tempted to cook the asparagus al dente as this leaves the bottoms of the stalks very tough and stringy, as well as not cooking out the bitterness. However, overcooking means you have wasted your money. You should aim for fork-tender.
There is any number of weird and wonderful recipes for asparagus (link ) but in my opinon, the simplest such as with butter and parmesan, or with hollandaise and a poached egg are the best. You can use the ends of the stalks and any broken spears as the basis for a delicious soup along the lines of Broccoli Stalk Soup .
By the way the other time the Germans get so excited about food, is in the autumn when the wild mushrooms start to come in.