Abensberg and Schrobenhausen Asparagus

Schrobenhausen asparagus PGI is tender to the bite and strong-tasting with a light nutty flavour, and has a maximum length of 22 centimetres. The loose soils of its homeland, made up of wind-blown sand and containing 20 percent loam and clay, are what give it its character. As many as 150 years ago, the wealthy upper class enjoyed the tender delights of local Schrobenhausen asparagus. It wasn't until the twentieth century that asparagus began to be cultivated over extensive areas around Schrobenhausen – and then of course it wasn't long before everyone began to appreciate it.

A slight bitterness combined with a light sweetness are what characterise the taste of Abensberg asparagus PGI. Its cultivation area is one of the oldest in Europe: the 'sand belt' around Abensberg was first mentioned as long ago as 1730. The sandy and humus-rich soils, in combination with spring warmth and mild night temperatures, are ideal conditions for growing this noble vegetable and give Abensberg asparagus its unmistakeable taste.

  • Asparagus has been grown in the region around Schrobenhausen for the last 150 years – today its cultivation takes up an area of 900 hectares.
  • Abensberg asparagus has been grown in the Abensberg area since 1730: The sand belt stretches over an area of around 330 hectares.
  • Asparagus varies from one region to the next. For example Abensberg asparagus (PGI) and Schrobenhausen asparagus (PGI) owe their special qualities to the soils in the areas in which they are grown.
  • The asparagus season is regarded as the 'fifth season' all around Abensberg and Schrobenhausen. Gourmets and adventurers come in their thousands to visit asparagus farmers, public houses and the European Asparagus Museum.

 

Garden asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) consists of more than 90 percent water (which is why a whole kilogram of asparagus has only 180 calories). The remainder is a pure joy for the body. The aspartic acid it contains helps flush the body of water. And minerals such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron plus vitamins C (concentrated in the asparagus tips), B and E make you fit for the spring.

Asparagus is a perennial shrub of the lily family. Its rootstock remains deep in the ground over the winter. And every year when the spring comes, it sprouts its shoots in the form of asparagus spears.

The loose and sandy soils in the region around Abensberg and Schrobenhausen are ideal for asparagus cultivation. Such soils warm quickly under the sun and can be easily worked. Because the soil is so soft, the asparagus spears can easily penetrate it and grow straight.

As soon as the spears begin to stretch upwards towards the sunlight, they turn violet. Which is why in spring, the asparagus growers earth up the soil into typical hill formations to form asparagus beds. Under the protection of the soil, the spears retain their elegant paleness right up until harvest time. The harvest workers carefully cut the spears, one after the other, with a cut-off knife. They then fill the holes again with soil and smooth over the soil hills with an asparagus trowel. This allows them to see exactly where new shoots are coming through, when fine cracks start to appear in the asparagus beds just above the heads of the spears. When it is warm, asparagus can grow up to 0.75 centimetres per hour! For this reason, asparagus fields are harvested twice a day.

The sheeting that you often see nowadays covering asparagus fields are used for controlling the temperature. When the black side is facing upwards, it absorbs heat from the sun's rays and conducts it into the soil, whereas the white side is used to reflect the heat away and avoid a premature harvest.

When asparagus inspectors bend down over the pale spears, they are checking their fibrousness, aroma and flavour. Is the asparagus coarsely fibrous or is it tender and free of fibres? Does it have the characteristic aroma – finely nutty or pleasantly buttery? Is the bitter component coarse and overpowering or is it discreet? Is the asparagus mild or (too) sweet?

The soils in the cultivation regions – pleasantly loose and sandy with 20 percent loam and clay – are responsible for giving the Abensberg and Schrobenhausen asparagus their outstanding character. The spears are tender, their aroma is intensive and lightly nutty. Long spears often have somewhat stringy ends. For this reason, Abensberg and Schrobenhausen asparagus have a maximum length of 22 centimetres, making them a tender joy from top to bottom. Their compact stature also reduces the risk of their becoming damaged or hollow. And it instils a good balance between the head and the spear.

Schrobenhausen asparagus must not be watered after harvesting. Rather, it is placed in intermediate storage, where it is subjected to shock cooling at 1-2 degrees Celsius under high air humidity. This preserves both its full flavour and its valuable ingredients.

  • Abensberg asparagus PGI is grown at 35 farms in the district of Kelheim: Abensberg, Kehlheim, Biburg, Train, Saal, Langquaid, Siegenburg, Neustadt/Donau, Hausen, Roht, Elsendorf, and a few smaller municipalities like Sandharlanden and Holzharlanden.
  • Schrobenhausen asparagus PGI originates from 19 municipalities in the districts of Neuburg-Schrobenhausen, Aichach-Friedberg and Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm. As the regional asparagus culture is rooted in Schrobenhausen and its centre remains here to this day, it is this city that gives the speciality its name.

It is evident from the notes written by Maximilian Georg Kroiss on the "Depiction of the economic behaviour of the Mendicant Order of the Shod Carmelites" that asparagus was grown in Abensberg (probably) as early as 1730. This would make Abensberg one of the oldest cultivation areas not only in Germany but in the whole of Europe. The only area to predate Abensberg in terms of international historical ranking is Sweden, where despite the low temperatures, hardened asparagus farmers have been cultivating the tender vegetable since 1720. However the yield produced on what is an area of no more than 35 to 40 hectares goes only a very little way to covering asparagus consumption in Sweden, and in terms of taste, it is no contest for the second-oldest cultivation area of Abensberg.

The people in and around Abensberg are fully aware of the centuries-old tradition and the uniqueness of their asparagus. Although it is only cultivated over an area of 330 hectares (a much smaller area than that of Schrobenhausen), the quality of the white spears is first class and well known far beyond the state boundaries. To ensure that it remains so unique, in 2011, Abensberg obtained official protection within the EU in the form of the PGI label.

The 'Koeniglich Bayerische Wochenblatt' or 'Royal Bavarian Weekly Newspaper' first mentioned asparagus being grown in the Schrobenhausen area in 1851. Only a few years later, Count von Sandizell supplied asparagus to the manorial kitchen in Munich. At that time, the royal vegetable was only grown over a small area. It was the farmer Christian Schadt who developed the cultivation of asparagus in the early twentieth century. He planted asparagus in Oberhaidhof on an area of 1.33 hectares. His neighbours initially looked on sceptically. But by the 1920s, a number of larger operations began to copy him. By the 1950s, there were many small farming operations that specialised in asparagus growing.
 
Today, there are nearly 600 farmers growing Schrobenhausen asparagus, most of them small or medium sized farms or newly purchased operations. Their asparagus fields stretch over an area of around 900 hectares.

 

The asparagus season begins in April and ends on 24 June, Saint-Jean Baptiste Day. In this 'fifth season', thousands of asparagus fans travel to the cultivation areas of Bavaria to buy it fresh from the farm, to eat it in speciality restaurants, and to visit the European Asparagus Museum in Schrobenhausen.

The exact day on which the first spears are put on sale depends on the weather. If it has been warm for a long period, the season begins correspondingly early. There is a good reason why no more asparagus is cut after Saint-Jean Baptiste Day: the asparagus plants need a long time to regenerate and deliver a rich harvest the following year. Which means that the gourmets have plenty of time to look forward to the coming year's season....

 

Wherever a speciality product is made, the people have a fine comprehension of good cuisine. If you look in the Internet, you will find a list of asparagus tip caterers or 'Spargelspitzen-Gastronomen', who exclusively use Schrobenhausen asparagus (PGI).

If you are not only hungry for asparagus but also thirty for knowledge, you should visit the European Asparagus Museum in Schrobenhausen. The museum explains all about asparagus from a historical, botanical, medical and artistic perspective.

Ideally, asparagus is sold on the day, or the day after, it is harvested. You can tell when asparagus is fresh from the:

  • Fully closed head
  • Aromatic fragrance
  • Firm, shiny spears that do not yield to pressure
  • Juicy cut ends that have a pleasantly fresh fragrance when squeezed
  • Clean white or green colour with no browning
  • Squeaking sound made when two spears are rubbed together

Fresh asparagus can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days: cover with a clean damp cloth and place in the vegetable compartment. Moisten the cloth again if required.

Raw asparagus can also be frozen, after it has been peeled and cleaned.

Raw, boiled, steamed, fried, grilled or deep-fried; with ham, meat or fish, with Hollandaise sauce, butter, olive oil, or Parmesan cheese, as a soup or mousse, in salad or a roulade: each year, the treasury of cooking recipes grows as quickly as the asparagus spears in the field. Here you will find our asparagus recipes.

Asparagus is noble but not at all stuck-up. It is extremely easy to prepare.

The basic recipe for boiled asparagus is as follows:

  • Bring some water to the boil. Add some butter and a maximum of one teaspoon of salt per litre of water.
  • Place the asparagus in the water. When lying, the asparagus should be just covered with water, and when standing, it should only be covered half way up. Then the tender heads will be cooked gently by the steam.
  • Test to check that it is cooked: the spears are ready after 10 to 20 minutes. Simply pierce with a fork to test. The asparagus should be soft and elastic but still offer some resistance.
  • Serve with melted butter.