While visiting Steinhagen the family and I enjoyed a delicious Spargel buffet at the Hotel Restaurant Graf Bernhard. The meal was delicious and it was my introduction to white asparagus. I have eaten the green variety on many occasions, but never white. It turns out the there is a whole lot to know about the humble asparagus in Germany. One of the fun things that I found out this unassuming vegetable is that there are Spargel Festivals held annually, in it’s honour, in Germany.
History of Spargel Festivals in Germany
Asparagus has been a popular vegetable in Germany since the 16th century when it was introduced from Italy. The vegetable was highly valued by the aristocracy and was served in elaborate dishes during banquets and special events. By the 19th century, asparagus had become a popular dish for the middle class, and it was widely cultivated across Germany. In the early 20th century, the first Spargel festivals were held in the south of Germany. These festivals were a celebration of the arrival of asparagus season and an opportunity for locals to showcase their best asparagus dishes.
So what is the Spargel Festival?
Well, it’s that time of the year when the Germans celebrate the Spargel or white asparagus. Who would have thought that the humble asparagus would have towns and villages celebrating its existence?
Over the years, Spargel festivals have become more popular, and today they are held all over Germany. The festivals have evolved to include not just asparagus but a range of traditional German dishes, music, and entertainment.
When and where are the Spargel Festivals held?
Spargel festivals are held across Germany during the asparagus season which traditionally starts on April 24th and ends on June 24th. These festivals are held in towns and cities across the country, with some of the most popular festivals taking place in the regions of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, and Lower Saxony.
During this time, these festivals are usually held on weekends, and they can last for several days. Some of the larger festivals attract tens of thousands of visitors, while smaller festivals are more intimate and attract locals.However, the Spargelfest in Schwetzingen is known for its extended celebration that lasts an entire month!
So what can you expect to find at the Spargel festival?
Well, lots of plump, round white asparagus for one thing. After all, that is what the Spargel festival is about. In many towns and villages throughout Baden-Württember you will find spargel tents set up where vendors set up to sell their produce. You will also find a wide range of traditional German dishes featuring asparagus for your culinary enjoyment. Some of these include dishes such as Spargel creme suppe (asparagus cream soup), Spargel mit Kartoffeln (asparagus with potatoes), and Spargel risotto (asparagus risotto). These dishes are often served with a variety of sauces, including Hollandaise sauce, butter sauce, and vinaigrette.
So you will find appetisers, mains and even desserts that have all been made using Spargel, and you may even find the vegetable being grilled over an open fire.
In addition to the asparagus dishes, visitors can also expect to find a range of other traditional German foods, such as sausages, schnitzel, and potato salad. Many festivals also feature live music, with traditional German bands playing folk music and other popular tunes.
And what else?
Visitors to Spargel festivals can take part in a range of activities, such as asparagus peeling competitions and asparagus-themed parades. There are also plenty of opportunities to buy fresh asparagus, either cooked or uncooked, to take home and enjoy.
A fun fact:
Chef Helmut Zipner peeled a full tonne of asparagus in 16 hours during the annual Asparagus Festival in Berlin. This record has yet to be broken, earning him the nickname Spargel-Tarzan, or Asparagus Tarzan.
In Schwetzingen, the spargellauf is a race held in which participants wearing traditional hats rush to the spargeltents with spargel dishes in hand.
The Spargel Queen
The entire Spargelfest culminates each year on 2 May (in German this is referred to as spargeltag ) with the spargel coronation, in which a King and Queen of Spargel are crowned. In fact, one of the highlights of Spargel festivals is the crowning of the Spargel Queen. The Spargel Queen is a local beauty queen who is chosen to represent the festival and promote asparagus in the region. The Spargel Queen is typically crowned at the start of the festival, and she plays a prominent role in the festival’s events and activities.
The Spargel Queen is often dressed in a traditional German dirndl dress and wears a crown of asparagus. She is responsible for promoting the festival, attending events and activities, and representing the region’s asparagus growers.
Spargel dance and spargel schnapps are also part of the festivities, all culminating in a spargellauf ball at the end of the month long celebration. The spargellauf and coronation are held at night, so festival goers dress up in their spargel finest to dance the night away.
Why Are Spargel Festivals Important?
Spargel festivals are an important part of German culture, and they play a significant role in promoting and celebrating the country’s culinary heritage. These festivals not only celebrate the arrival of asparagus season, but they also showcase traditional German cuisine, music, and entertainment. They bring together locals and tourists alike, providing an opportunity for people to connect, share their love of food, and enjoy a festive atmosphere.
In addition to celebrating Germany’s culinary heritage, Spargel festivals also have economic benefits. These festivals attract thousands of visitors each year, providing a boost to local businesses and tourism in the region. Asparagus growers also benefit from the increased demand for their product during the asparagus season, and festivals provide an opportunity for them to showcase their produce and promote their farms.
Some of the Most Popular Spargel Festivals in Germany
- Schwetzingen Asparagus Festival – This festival takes place in the town of Schwetzingen in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The festival lasts for three weeks and features a range of asparagus dishes, live music, and other entertainment.
- Beelitz Asparagus Festival – This festival is held in the town of Beelitz in the state of Brandenburg. It is one of the oldest and largest Spargel festivals in Germany, attracting over 100,000 visitors each year.
- Nienburg Asparagus Festival – This festival takes place in the town of Nienburg in the state of Lower Saxony. It features a range of asparagus dishes, live music, and entertainment, and culminates in the crowning of the Spargel Queen.
- Schrobenhausen Asparagus Festival – This festival is held in the town of Schrobenhausen in the state of Bavaria. It is one of the largest Spargel festivals in Bavaria, attracting over 60,000 visitors each year.
- Beilngries Asparagus Festival – This festival takes place in the town of Beilngries in the state of Bavaria. It features a range of asparagus dishes, live music, and entertainment, and culminates in the crowning of the Spargel Queen.
Why to the Germans love white asparagus?
The white asparagus variety is preferred by many Germans as it is believed to be more delicate and less bitter compared to the green type. It typically has thicker and longer stalks than the green variety, which has a tougher skin that makes it less enjoyable to eat. Although I have to say that I don’t mind the green variety smothered in lots of creamy butter and salted.
If you ever find yourself in Germany during asparagus season, be sure to check out one of the many Spargel festivals taking place across the country. It’s a unique and delicious way to experience German culture and cuisine, and pay homage to the white asparagus.
Other activities to try:
While you are in the area trying out the Spargel, why not check out some other activities in the area.