That’s right, boys and girls, it’s that time of year again: Spargelzeit. The celebration of asparagus is in full swing in Switzerland. Thanks to a tip from Jack at Laughing Lemon, some friends and I headed outside the city last Sunday to check out the Flaacher Spargelfest (an asparagus festival held on a family farm in the town of Flaach).
We arrived around lunch time and headed straight for the food. We sampled pretty much everything that was on offer: asparagus risotto, sauteed asparagus, cream of asparagus soup, asparagus pizza, asparagus sausage (OK, I passed on this last one). There were even asparagus-shaped desserts (which to my knowledge didn’t contain any actual asparagus).
Then it was on to the tour of the farm. This was conducted by the farmer in Swiss German, but we were still able to follow some of it. We learned that the asparagus seeds are sprouted somewhere else, and then the bundles of live roots are delivered to the farm for planting. They grow into bushes for the first two years, and then starting in the third year the asparagus can be harvested.
The farm grows three varieties of asparagus: green, white, and purple. The green and purple grow above ground, whereas the white are grown in mounds of dirt covered with tarps to keep the light out.
The farmer demonstrated how a white asparagus is harvested, all by hand:
The tour concluded with a demo of the machine which washes the asparagus and cuts each stalk to exactly 22 centimeters. This length is a standard throughout the area, and was decided upon based on the size of the pans most people have for cooking. The is supposedly a farm in Germany that makes theirs 27 centimeters; they sell extra-large pans there, too.
This guy is apparently the farm’s mascot, as he appears on all their signs and on the website. I call him ‘Spargi’. I was really disappointed that there wasn’t anyone at the festival dressed up as a giant white asparagus. At the very least they could have sold hats or dolls or something, but alas there was no merchandising of Spargi whatsoever.
Our last stop was the asparagus shop, where we picked up a couple bundles of fresh asparagus and other asparagus-related paraphernalia. Then we came home and made asparagus for dinner. I’ll spare you the details of the pee-related consequences of this particular day.