Spargel is the German word for asparagus. In Germany, spargel is usually grown in conditions which inhibit photosynthesis, which means that the asparagus spears are white rather than green. The Germans claim that their spargel is sweeter and more tender than green asparagus, and asparagus season is a cause for much commotion in many parts of Germany. People who have an opportunity to visit Germany in the late spring can enjoy a variety of dishes made with this vegetable, and take part in the general asparagus frenzy which grips some parts of Germany.
Asparagus is known as the "royal vegetable" in Germany. Traditionally, it is grown in covered cloches so that when the spears protrude above ground, they will not start to photosynthesize in the sunlight. The spears are green to gold in color, and sometimes streaked with purple. The straighter and whiter the spear, the higher price it will fetch. Unlike green asparagus, which usually tastes best when the spears are thin, large spears of white asparagus can be quite flavorful, especially if the woody outer later is peeled away.
April to June is spargel season in Germany, and it's hard to avoid this vegetable during these months. Roadside stands, farmers' markets, and grocery stores all carry ample supplies of the "royal vegetable," and many restaurants have special spargel menus which feature asparagus as the star ingredient. People who want to enjoy asparagus year round may opt to pickle white asparagus while it is in season, assuming that they can keep other members of their households away from the kitchen long enough to secure the asparagus in pickling jars.
In Schwetzingen, sometimes known as the asparagus capital, people can attend the annual Spargelfest, a festival dedicated specifically to celebrating asparagus, at which a Spargel Queen is crowned. White asparagus is worked into a variety of creative dishes during this annual festival, such as appetizers made by wrapping asparagus in cured meats, another specialty of German cuisine. Spargel can also be worked into quiches, salads, and a variety of other dishes.
White and green asparagus certainly do taste different, and for asparagus aficionados, a visit to Germany can yield a variety of creative recipes for spargel, along with a chance to experience the flavor many times over. People who do not enjoy this vegetable may want to be aware that asparagus is on many restaurant menus and plates across Germany during the spargel season, and that hosts may be offended if guests pick at their spargel.