Every town I went to during my recent trip to Europe was in the midst of asparagus obsession. In Riquewihr, France, signs perched outside restaurants proudly announced "Les Asperges sont arrivées!" (Asparagus has arrived!). In Salzburg, Austria, posters were plastered all around town advertising the city's upcoming "Spargelfest," which I sadly missed by two days. In Bonn, Germany, the Saturday market was bombarded by healthy stalks of locally grown white* asparagus, the preferred variety in Germany and bordering countries.
Indeed, it is Germany that is perhaps the most obsessed country, where white asparagus is heralded "The Royal Vegetable." During Asparagus Season, the average German eats asparagus once a day -- every day. Only five percent of the total German asparagus production is exported this time of year. There's even an "Asparagus Route" in southwestern Germany, which passes through the country's top asparagus cities, such as Schwetzingen, the self-proclaimed "Asparagus Capital of the World."
So whether it's biking along Germany's Asparagus Route, attending an asparagus festival, or simply trying some top-notch cream of asparagus soup, you'll be hard pressed not to catch spargel fever if your travels take you to (or around) Germany before the asparagus season ends in mid- to late-June. So "stalk up" and enjoy!
*Wondering what the difference is between green and white asparagus? I was, too. After some careful research, I learned that white asparagus is grown in soil underground and receives no sunlight, and thus lacks the chlorophyll that turns green asparagus green. It tends to be more mild and tender than green asparagus.
Photo: Fresh spargel at a Frankfurt market via tenbon on Flickr