Asparagus --- Edible Ivory
April 26, 2018 11:33am CST
When Germans think ‘asparagus’, they think very large fields with rows of elevated beds watched attentively during the season from the end of April until 24th June, the day of St. John after which asparagus is not eaten any more. Just after sunrise the pickers go out onto the fields and where they see a slight crack in the soil, they put their special knife in and cut the stalk carefully. In order to get completely white - or to be precise: off-white, ivory coloured - asparagus, the cutting must be done before the tip of the plant gets into contact with sunlight which would make it green or slightly violet. Diligent pickers can pick three to five kilos per hour. That means approximately 100 stalks. During the season asparagus grows so quickly that there’s a second harvest in the afternoons! It can’t come as a surprise to learn that given its phallic shape, asparagus is frequently enjoyed as an aphrodisiac food. A Vegetarian Society suggests, ‘Feed your lover boiled or steamed spears for a sensuous experience’ and, ‘Eating asparagus for three days for the most powerful affect‘. [I haven’t tried it. If you do, leave a comment, please. I can include your experience in an update:-)]. What is so special about asparagus? 95% of the plant is water, but the rest contains valuable minerals and vitamins, according to dietologists it is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K, folacin, a good source of dietry fibre and also supplies the B group vitamins thiamine and riboflavine, as well as potassium and iron. It cleans the blood, activates the kidneys and drains water out of the body. Unfortunately it has also an unpleasant side-effect, at least for one day: the urine stinks repulsively! Why that is so nobody can say for sure. Strangely, only 50% of the asparagus eaters are affected which makes the whole thing quite mysterious. How do we prepare asparagus? It must be fresh, that’s vital. It should best be eaten on the day of picking. The heads must still be closed, the stems must make a squeaking sound when you rub them against each other. Wash the stalks, cut off the end and peel them with a knife or a potato peeler. If you have to keep the asparagus for a day or two, wrap the stalks into a damp cloth such as a kitchen towel and put them in the fridge. Fill the pot with so much water that the stalks are covered, add some butter (!) and sugar (!) and bring to boil. Add some salt before you put the stalks in, boil them for five minutes, then simmer for about 15 minutes. The classical asparagus dish in Germany is: asparagus, boiled new potatoes, ham and Sauce Hollandaise. I buy it ready made, it tastes good and wouldn’t taste better if I prepared it myself. Don’t throw the water away in which you’ve boiled the asparagus, put the peelings in and let them simmer for 20 minutes. You can then press them through a sieve to get some pulp out (and then throw them away). The liquid you’ve got now is a kind of stock. I’ve put it in the freezer and will use it in winter to make delicious asparagus soup. White vegetables go well with white wine. --- Photo: pixabay
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Good question! I found an explanation in a guide for people who plant asparagus in their garden: "Harvest at 8 inches tall, snapping them off at the soil line. ***Stop when the diameter of the spear decreases to the size of a pencil. Then it is time to stop and let them grow, gaining strength for next spring.*** We harvest every other day during the season. ***Once the asparagus starts to open and have foliage, it’s too tough for eating.*** So the answer is that later in the year the spears become too thin and too tough.
• United Kingdom
Oh yes it is that time of year again, Asparagus season. Most decent restaurants would be serving this right now. I am unfortunately one of those people who NEVER eat Asparagus because of the smell from Urine after you have eaten it. It is the foulest thing you can imagine. So you may have my share!
• Cambridge, England
I have occasionally seen asparagus white like that on our local market but usually it's green and cut above ground (and a little smaller than those spears). We NEVER peel it! The instructions are always to snap the stems by bending gently. Where they snap is the point above which they are tender. The traditional way of cooking them is to stand them upright in boiling water so that the stems are boiled for 5-7 minutes and the tops cook in the steam. I don't usually bother to do this (which requires a tall saucepan and for the stems to be tied in a bundle) but either cook them in lightly salted water or steam them for 5 minuites or so.