We’re betting you didn’t know that there’s an entire region in Germany – known as the Asparagus Triangle – where vegetable enthusiasts converge to buy, eat, and celebrate the esteemed asparagus. The town of Schwetzingen considers itself the “asparagus capital of the world” and serves as the center of Spargelfest, an Oktoberfest-style festival dedicated to asparagus. In fact, there’s even a world record for fastest asparagus peeler. If you’re interested in claiming that title, you’ll need to peel over one ton of white asparagus in under sixteen hours. Viel Glück!
Why a Festival?
Why not? Asparagus officinalis is full of nutrients and health benefits. It’s also extremely versatile in recipes, both as a raw or cooked vegetable. It can stand alone as a side or as a component of a larger dish. It boasts 40 calories, 2-4 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber. Asparagus is also a good source of folate (which aids the brain in fighting cognitive degeneration and is a essential nutrient during pregnancy), vitamins A, C, E, and K, iron, and zinc. Other benefits include the trace mineral chromium (aids in transporting glucose), antioxidants (reduces inflammation and slows cell aging), and the amino acid asparagine, which helps the body release excess fluid and salts.
Asparagus should be included in all diets, but particularly those suffering from heart-related issues. The potassium found in the vegetable promotes good blood flow and blood pressure. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that asparagus is also a rich source of glutathione, a compound that helps break down carcinogens.
That’s a lot to Celebrate
Asparagus – folk name, “sparrow grass” – is a perennial flowering plant species. It is a spring vegetable native to the western coasts of Europe, specifically Spain, Ireland, Great Britian, and of course, Germany. Only the young shoots are eaten as the the plant grows tougher and bitter once the buds open.
Did you know not all asparagus is green? Purple asparagus was originally cultivated in Italy. It is higher in sugar and lower in fiber. White asparagus, also known as “the royal vegetable” is popular in Europe and the star of Germany’s Spargelfest.
Let’s Get Cooking!
Asparagus can be boiled, grilled, steamed, roasted, or sautéed. It serves well in salads, stir-fries, omelets, pastas, and as a side dish. When purchasing fresh asparagus from your local farmer’s market, look for firm stems and tight, closed tips. It’s best when eaten right away, but you can store it in the fridge but placing the stems in a cup of water and covering the tips with either a plastic bag or plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can wrap the stems in a wet paper towel and store in a plastic bag.
For an easy side dish:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
- Cut off the tough, bottom ends of the asparagus and line on the sheet.
- Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until stems are tender.
- You can also use butter or balsamic vinegar to taste. Guten Appetit!