This time of the year is the perfect season to eat fresh asparagus. Therefore, the I-ATE Food Term of this week is dedicated to this appetizing vegetable.
In many countries, asparagus is cooked and eaten in numerous dishes using different varieties that do not alter the taste of the dish but make it more colourful. For example, amongst more than 200 varieties, there are types of asparagus that become white because of the lack of light, and others that are purple because they contain anthocyanins, the same pigments which are responsible for the colour in grapes and red cabbage.
Asparagus is mostly, but not only, appreciated in Eastern Europe where it is called, for example, sparga in Hungarian, szparagi in Polish, spargla in Serbian and sparanghel in Romanian.
In some countries such as Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine, asparagus is often eaten with hard-boiled eggs or, traditionally in Hungary, in a savoury pudding called spargapudding that can be served as a main course, an appetizer or just a side dish.
In Greece, it is common to eat sparagia me avga (σπαράγγια με αυγά), fried asparagus cooked with eggs, and also sparagopita (σπαραγγόπιτα), i.e. pita pie with asparagus, which is made of pastry, asparagus, eggs and olive oil.
In Russia, asparagus soups (крем – суп из спаржи, krem sup iz Sparzhi) are very popular and they are made with asparagus, water, milk, other vegetables such as peas if desired, and garnished with sour cream.
Asparagus can also be eaten with smoked or brined fish as an appetizer or a light lunch.
In Poland, the spring salad sałatka wiosenna is made using radishes, green onions, asparagus, peas, hard-boiled eggs and sweet peppers to make the dish more seasonal. Cubed cheese can be also added to the salad.
In Asia as well as in Eastern Europe, asparagus is cooked with sesame and chives that were traditionally hung in houses to keep diseases away.
Moreover, asparagus can be used as an ingredient in many savoury tart recipes together with leeks, potatoes and dill or, especially in Italy, it serves as an accompaniment for pasta together with other ingredients, for example, shrimps or cheese.
In countries such as France, Germany and Spain white asparagus is the most used and appreciated. In France it is served in many Michelin restaurants with just some oil and pepper, whereas normally it is eaten with Hollandaise sauce (also called Dutch sauce), a sort of mayonnaise which is made with white wine and lemon juice instead of traditionally used oil (in the North) or vinegar (in the South).
In Spain white asparagus can be easily found in tapas bars and supermarkets, whereas in Germany from April until June it is the Spargelzeit, i.e. the asparagus season. The easiest way to eat asparagus is in broth, garnished with butter or as a side dish for the typical bratwurst.
And how do you prepare asparagus in your country? Let us know about your delicious traditions and have a nice weekend!
Written by Serena Grementieri – Terminology trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament, BA in Intercultural Linguistic Mediation and MA degree in Specialized Translation at the School of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Interpreting and Translation (ex-SSLMIT) of Forlì, University of Bologna, and Clara Gorría Lázaro, Translator, terminologist and Terminology Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament
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