zurich: spargelzeit!

Posted on April 10, 2006



by julie galante 

Ever since I first experienced it in Germany eight years ago, I have been endlessly amused by the enthusiasm with which Spargelzeit (asparagus season) is welcomed in this part of the world. Placards outside of restaurants and markets scream about its arrival. Grocery stores pile up half their produce section with bundles upon bundles of the spears, both white and green. Bookstores prominently display asparagus cookbooks, and kitchenware shops offer special asparagus serving plates and storage containers.

It’s yummy and all, but of all the vegetables, asparagus is hardly the one I would choose to celebrate with such reverence. Artichokes, maybe. Porcini, definitely. But asparagus? Come on now.

I’m not sure if white asparagus is a relatively new invention, or if it just never caught on in the US the way it has here. In Zurich it’s almost as popular as the green variety, and the Germans downright worship the stuff. I hear they are grown in the dark to keep them from turning green. From what I understand, with the white kind it’s the fatter the better. Maybe this is because you have to peel them before you cook and eat them, and peeling a whole bunch of really skinny stalks wouldn’t be all that fun. 

Countless Zurich eateries add an entire Spargel menu to their offerings during the spring months. From asparagus cream soup to pig leg with asparagus, you will have no problem getting your Spargel fix in this city. Earlier this week I dined on a creamy green asparagus risotto at Le Dézaley, a popular restaurant near the Grossmunster that specializes in Franco-Swiss cuisine. Now that the weather has gotten warmer, I’m looking forward to enjoying a couple more Spargel-centric meals at one of the countless outdoor tables that have mushroomed up all over downtown.