Despite the fact that the Egyptians cultivated asparagus as early as 4,500 years ago, it became hugely popular only in the 17th century. Thanks to the nutrient-rich soils in and around Braunschweig, one of the largest asparagus-growing regions of Northern Germany developed here. Its superb quality soon made asparagus from Braunschweig famous beyond the city’s borders – it was shipped fresh as far as Sweden and, when preserved, even to Australia and America. Today, Braunschweig asparagus still enjoys an excellent reputation. Try it for yourself each year between April and June.
“If the keenness of demand in all five continents, as well as the continuous increase of production is proof of a product’s excellence, then asparagus from Braunschweig cannot be surpassed by any other product in the world.”*
Farmers from Braunschweig cultivating the snow-white spears
The career of the asparagus as “royal vegetable” began relatively late in Germany. In Egypt and Greece, asparagus was known as early as 4,500 years ago and was used for consumption and medicinal purposes. In Europe, the Romans introduced asparagus in the 13th century, albeit only as a medical agent. In Northern Germany, asparagus was probably only started to be grown in the 17th century. In contrast to the French and English, farmers in Northern Germany cultivated white asparagus spears instead of the green variety. People started to see asparagus less as a medicinal plant and began to enjoy it as a seasonal delicacy.
All the way to China with the aid of the canning industry
The cultivation of asparagus and the development of the canning industry were closely related in Braunschweig. As asparagus is a very delicate vegetable, it can only be transported as fresh produce over limited distances. Destinations for fresh asparagus included “Berlin, Magdeburg, Leipzig, Dresden, Wroclaw, Cologne, Hanover, Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck, Kiel and Copenhagen. Shipping also goes out to Stockholm, and even Erfurt and Mainz, both major producers of asparagus, regularly receive substantial amounts of fresh produce from Braunschweig.”
Around 1850, the vegetable was successfully preserved in cans. From that point on, asparagus was grown on a large scale in Braunschweig. Braunschweig soon became one of the main regions for asparagus cultivation in what was then the German Empire. Thanks to cans, asparagus could now be offered all year round and shipped as far as China, Japan, Australia, the United States and Central America.
The quality and quantity of asparagus production soon transformed the city into a hub for the canning industry before the Second World War. Braunschweig asparagus became the epitome of good quality.
Today, we mainly enjoy asparagus during the springtime, when the fresh produce is available on the markets in and around Braunschweig. And the quality and reputation of Braunschweig asparagus are still as strong as ever.
Gertrud and Georg Ruppelt, Das Buch vom Spargel aus Braunschweig, Geschichte, Geschichten und viele Rezepte rund um ein Spitzengemüse, Braunschweig: Verlag Michael Kuhle, 1994.
* Ferdinand Sonnenburg, “Spargelbau in Braunschweig”, in Adolf Kröner (Ed.), Die Gartenlaube, booklet 21, p. 350, Leipzig, 1881.
** Gustav Burmester, Der Braunschweiger Spargelbau, Anleitung, den Spargel zu seiner größeren Vollkommenheit und den höchsten Erträgen anzuziehen, Braunschweig: Hellmuth Wollermann, 1898.
spargelseiten.de; Georg Köster, August-Hinrichs-Str. 12, 26160 Bad Zwischenahn.