Praises have often been sung of the rose, the violet, or bunches of lilac. But no poet ever extols the virtues of asparagus. We think it’s highly deserving of praise too. We always feel a little bewitched when asparagus grows in Mahrensdorf and Bad Blumau. From April to June, it grows on the fields belonging to the Reicher and Brugner families. You can enjoy it all year round at the farm shop in Mahrensdorf, where it’s preserved in Gölles’ balsamic vinegar.
In spring or early summer, when the warm rays of sunshine shine down on Styria’s “Wine Country” earlier than anywhere else in Austria, we know it won’t be long before asparagus season arrives. Veronika, who grows asparagus: “From March to May, while tender shoots of wild garlic are springing up in profusion in the wild garlic patches of the Murauen wetlands in Bad Radkersburg, getting turned into delicious pesto, cream of wild garlic soup and wild garlic purée... the next season is already under way: asparagus time!”
Connoisseurs relish Styrian asparagus paired with gorgeous Styrian white wine, marking the first highlight on the culinary calendar. This king among vegetables also has a diuretic and purifying effect.
Asparagus is essentially divided into green asparagus, white asparagus and wild asparagus. Green asparagus grows above ground in the sun, is easy to harvest, and is therefore more affordable. White asparagus grows underground, is unearthed spear by spear, and sliced with a special asparagus knife. Species-wise, there is no actual difference between white and green asparagus. Every white asparagus shoot first turns purple, then green in the sunlight (photosynthesis).
Asparagus is relatively expensive, because it is grown and harvested by hand, making it time and cost-intensive. One-year-old root stocks are planted 25 centimetres deep. Several asparagus shoots grow through the soil from one root stock to reach the sunlight. To fortify the roots, growers leave the shoots to grow into green bushy asparagus fern in the first three years. The root stock remains in the soil, and overwinters in the sheltered depths. The stronger and higher the mature asparagus fern becomes, the stronger the rootstock and the better the harvest the following year, which only commences in year four. Asparagus can then be harvested for around 15 years, each season lasting no more than seven or eight weeks. Any longer and the rootstock weakens, reducing the crop size the following year.
The fresher the asparagus, the better the flavour. You can tell the freshness by the squeaking noise that is produced when you rub fresh asparagus spears together. Unlike green asparagus, white asparagus needs to be peeled thoroughly before cooking, as the skin is fibrous. Asparagus soup, asparagus salad, asparagus risotto, asparagus quiche, classic asparagus cooked with butter and ham, or perhaps with hollandaise sauce? There are so many different methods of preparation that asparagus season always seems too short.
The start of asparagus harvesting season is a highly anticipated annual event that all of Styria looks forward to. The vegetable is just too flavoursome, and preferably enjoyed over a glass of fine white wine. During asparagus season, the head chef at the Rogner Bad Blumau spa alone serves around 1,000 kilos of the vegetable, which grows on the nearby fields belonging to the Brugner family. The quality of the Brugners’ “Styrian asparagus” is known far and wide.
Margret and Werner Brugner grow green and white asparagus on some three hectares of sandy, humus-rich fields. The idea to bring asparagus to Southeast Styria came to Werner Brugner while he was doing an agricultural internship at an asparagus farm in northern Germany. It’s now been over 25 years since the family first began farming asparagus using gentle and sustainable methods.
As harvesting continues (April, May and June), fresh asparagus spears farmed by the Reicher family in Fehring are stacked into glasses by hand, and given the finishing touch with a marinade made from Gölles white balsamic vinegar. It makes a wonderful pairing with ham, fish and cheese. But it can also be enjoyed by itself too!
Fresh Styrian asparagus is available in food stores under the brands “Steirerspargel” (Styrian Asparagus), “Junge wilde Gemüsebauern” (Young Wild Vegetable Farmers) and “Reicher Spargel” (Reicher Family Asparagus). Fresh asparagus is also available directly from asparagus farmers, in many farm shops, gourmet shops and at farmers’ markets too.
Steirerspargel - Familie Brugner
8283 Bad Blumau, Bad Blumau 17
T +43 3383 3440 oder +43 664 845 31 91
8350 Fehring, Mahrensdorf 5
T +43 3157 2446
Die jungen WILDEN Gemüsebauern:
• Patrick Drobetz, 8490 Bad Radkersburg, Goritz 9
• Markus Klobassa, Patrick Drobetz, Zelting 16
• Claudia Hofer, 8492 Halbenrain, Dietzen 33
• Andreas Domatschitz, 8355 Tieschen, Laasen 9