After Easter, asparagus season begins – with some delay due to cool weather in March.
"We are in good spirits that it will really start from the second week of April," says managing director Simon Schumacher of the Association of Southern German Asparagus and Strawberry Growers (VSSE) in Bruchsal.
The region around the town in the Karlsruhe district is one of the largest asparagus growing areas in Germany. "We had hoped to be able to offer more at Easter. But the offer is not yet exhilarating."Only in heated fields can the vegetables now be harvested in this country.
Schumacher does not expect a bumper crop like last year’s. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 127 crops were harvested nationwide in 2017.800 tons of asparagus harvested – more than ever before. In 2016 there were still 120.014 tons. That pleased consumers, he said, because large quantity means low price. It is precisely the time-limited nature of asparagus that makes it so desirable. The vegetables are limited to one season. And it should stay that way, thinks Schumacher. "People associate asparagus with spring."
For this reason, the Bavarian Farmers’ Association also criticizes heated asparagus fields. "This is an artificially induced spring," says Theo Daxl, horticultural expert at the BBV in Munich. "We see this critically, not only because of the high energy expenditure. You fight against nature, not with nature."Asparagus is a special vegetable – precisely because it is not always available and limited to a certain season. "Asparagus is a messenger for spring."
Thanks to modern film technology, cultivation is simplified and the quality of the asparagus is improved, says VSSE head Schumacher. Sensors in the soil showed the farmer the temperature, so he could use the films accordingly. If more heat is needed, it turns the black film side up, which attracts the sun’s heat; if it gets hot and growth is to be slowed down, the white film side is on top. In this way, uniformly high harvest volumes could be achieved. In addition, the films slow down the growth of weeds, so that less pesticide has to be used. And: the films could be used for several years. This also costs money – but is better than importing asparagus from Peru or other countries.
In Lower Bavaria, asparagus farmer Hans Ganger has been harvesting asparagus for about three weeks – but only because he can heat the field using waste heat from a neighboring biogas plant. This way, the soil has about 15 to 17 degrees, says Ganger. And that is ideal for the asparagus to grow, he said. The overall yield is still low, however, because only two hectares of his 150 hectares are heated.
The first free-range asparagus could probably be grown between the 5th and the 20th century. and 10. April, estimates Ganger from Niedermotzing. "This is extremely late."On the other hand, we are spoiled from last year, when the season started early. But not only the supply, also the demand is still limited. The desire for asparagus also comes with the customers only with warmer temperatures.
A little more patience is needed by asparagus lovers in Brandenburg. "We don’t have heated fields here," says Manfred Schmidt of the Beelitz Asparagus Association. "We rely on the sun."Season opening is officially on 21. April. He said the ground is currently only six to eight degrees at a depth of 20 to 30 centimeters. ‘It’s just too cold’."The season is thus starting about four weeks later than last year- Nevertheless, Schmidt is in good spirits. He hopes for sudden and long-lasting spring weather. "Then the asparagus shoots out of the ground and is particularly tender."
This also pleases the gastronomy. "Regional, seasonal cuisine is very much in vogue," says a spokeswoman for the Hotel and Restaurant Association in Berlin. There are no statistics on the impact of the asparagus season on business. But for restaurateurs, she says, the asparagus season is always a spur to take special menus off the menu.