Friday, July 25, 2014

Are Super Foods as Good as we Think they are




CHEFTALK


Are super foods as good as we think they are?



The discussion about a healthy life style, healthy food, weight loss, running around the block, going to the gym, avoiding processed foods has entered a spiraling outbreak when you ask me. It is worse than an epidemic disease that has no cure but only hope for those affected.

You can’t open a food focused website or all sorts of super healthy looking gym blokes, super thin shiny ladies and handsome doctor look alike guys in authority commanding uniforms, who seem to have straight walked out of a mediocre hospital novel, pass your computer screen. All of them try to convince you of what is best for your health.

I do not know about you, but they drive me nuts. Their pushing style annoys me tremendously but they must be getting a point across to the average reader or else they would presumably not be there. How spot-on and accurate are they, is what they are trying to tell you the truth or are they just buck busters getting a good income over your, desperate to lose weight, back side.
The food producing industry as a whole and in tandem, the food processing industry is spending huge amounts of money to make us believe that what we eat is actually quite good. Well to put the whole issue in perspective, it is about money and nothing else than money.

The health issue

GMO is big in debate, the scare is that GMO plants create (or already have) new species of unknown plants that influence our health in the short medium or long term.


FDA scientist have repeatedly warned that GM injected plant species can produce ‘hard to detect’ side effects that may affect human health. Unknown side effects, nutritional effects and possible new diseases have been discovered. A good reason to avoid GM foods, question is how. More types of foods are GM than you might think. Not only soya beans, canola and corn are GM. Fruits are, I have read about papaya, pineapple and mangos.


Super food is another word high on the debate list, what are they and are they as ‘super’ as many want us to believe. 
Dietitians and nutritionists do not seem to like the word super foods, claiming lack of scientific proof for the benefits these foods may have. Cancer research UK claims the word is just a marketing tool with little scientific basis.

It is not getting easier to make out what is good or bad and what is safe and healthy to eat. If you have been reading some of my earlier posts you may know that I am a strong advocate of a balanced home cooked diet. This does not mean that that you should not have an outside lunch or dinner anymore. I believe that if a balanced home cooked diet is your principal, you can enjoy any food you like, in moderation, right proportion and variety.

Super foods

Super foods may not have a big load of scientific standing but they are good for you based on the properties and nutritional values they have. Dietitians and nutritionists do not deny that! 


Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel types and sardines are rich in essential fatty acids, Omega 6 and Omega 3. Dark colored vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are full of vitamins and minerals. Fruits are a rich source of fibers and vitamins. Legumes like beans and nuts are a good source of protein and so are meats. 
And then there are the, for many, somewhat unfamiliar ‘super foods. Grits, Quinoa, Kale, Hemp seeds, Edamame beans, coconut flour, okra and the list goes on. 

I believe in the health properties of all these ingredients, in addition they give me a load of inspiration.
Great foods that should be part of your diet. It is just a matter of where to find and how you implement them.


Buying super foods  

Organic produced super foods are your best choice. Unfortunately that is not within every ones reach. Buying goods from small farmers selling their produce on their own premises and at local farmers markets is a good choice as well. These farmers know what they are doing and are health food advocates themselves.

When stored correctly, most of the small farmers produce last much longer than mass produced products that have been stored and transported over a considerable period of time, losing a fair share of their shelf life and nutrients in the process.

Vacuuming, sharing and portioning saves cost.


www.vacupack.com  www.vacupack.ca 


Super foods are ‘Super’ when you buy the right product at the right place, for the right purpose!   


By: Marinus Hoogendoorn




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Should Obesity be Prosecuted




CHEFTALK


Should Obesity be prosecuted?



The legalization of marijuana in many US states has been welcomed by many and has been rejected by many others. Many objectors find marihuana a drug people get addicted to and should therefore be banned, some four decades ago this particular topic was hot news in the Netherlands, same objections, same arguments.


 The Dutch Approach

Smoking marihuana does not make you more dependent than smoking cigarettes. Contrary, the use of hard drugs increases every year with dire social consequences. A statement understood by the government in the Netherlands, when they decided in the 1970s (40 years ago mind you) to condone and tolerate controlled sales and personal use of soft drugs at registered locations. 
The objective was to separate the sales of soft drugs from the sales of hard drugs. This allowed law enforcement to shift their focus.
Those days the medical benefits were not well known but today it is widely agreed that marihuana has beneficial medical applications. 
The drugs policy in the Netherlands comes under regular scrutiny by neighboring countries, but the sales and use of cannabis is stable and under control and the death rate from the use of hard drugs is now the lowest in Europe.

The introduction of this article may sound a bit odd for an episode of CHEFTALK but allow me to explain why I picked the marijuana topic as intro to talk about the difference between legal and illegal addiction.


What is Legalized Addiction? 

Chocolate Cake
Obesity is a legally approved addiction. Sufferers are in most cases absolutely addicted to food that cause obesity. You are absolutely free to get addicted to obesity, you are free to stay addicted to obesity and you do not get arrested with a box full of doughnuts. 

A little marihuana in your possession may lead to a conviction with dire consequences.

What is the difference? Let’s look at some figures.

Obesity:

More than 1/3 of US adults (34.9%) are obese.
The estimated medical cost of obesity in the US was USD 147 billion in 2008.
The medical costs for people who are obese were $ 1,429 higher than for people with normal weight.
Obesity related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. 
(Source: Center for disease control and prevention)

Marihuana:


Healthy Grilled Vegetable Salad
A survey conducted among 70.000 people 12 years and above shows that in 2012, 7.3% or 7.6 million American adults use marihuana and heroin.  Up from 5.8% in 2007.
The use of marihuana alone, decreased for the 12 to 17 year age group from 7.9% in 2011 to 7.2% 2012.
Imprisonment of marijuana users cost an estimated USD 1 billion per year. This excludes loss of income and other social related cost.

Marihuana use has been linked to reduced brain development especially for people in the 12 to 18 year age group. A report that has been challenged in 2013 by the center for economic research in Oslo, stating that socioeconomic issues may have cost the drop in IQ as much as marihuana use. 
(Source: Alternet, University of Washington State, CBS news)


What should be Prosecuted?


Breakfast
Increase of marihuana arrests does not achieve the stated goals of marihuana prohibition. In fact the price of marihuana has dropped despite recent increases in arrests.
Controlled Marihuana use is fairly inexpensive and it helps relief people with certain illnesses yet using the substance is subject to prosecution.  

Obesity in contrast is exactly the opposite, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is America the fattest country in the world and is only getting fatter.

It is estimated that three out of four people in the US will be obese within the next ten years, before 1980 that was one out of every ten citizens.

A sedentary lifestyle combined with a frightening diet are the culprits and largely to blame for this scary prospect awaiting us.

Main excuse seems to be that when we hit the grocery store, white bread, ground chuck and potato chips are less expensive than products from the organic aisle. 
For a struggling family of four having the idea of feeding a family of four with 9 servings a day, the choice is no choice anymore. In addition fast food offers 99 cent meals and the whole thing of choosing the wrong (obesity causing)  products becomes something like unavoidable or a ‘what do you want me to do’ issue.


Healthy and Hearty
Now here is my point, I reject to believe that you have no choice or that your only choice is a 99 cents fast food meal because the organic aisle is too expensive. To me that is just a cheap excuse.  

You have many options to cook inexpensive meals that are healthy, hearty and keep you away from the ‘big size clothing stores and the doctor’s waiting room.

I cook everyday very ordinary simple home cooked food, simply because I believe in it and I am convinced that it is a better choice than 99 cent meals.


If you cannot produce a healthy meal for 99 cent, you certainly cannot buy one.

Think Healthy
I lace this articles with some pictures of my home cooked daily meals, not to show you how good a chef I am but to underline my believe in healthy, home cooked food.

The Netherlands has presently one of the healthiest eating populations in the world.   

In my next article I like to have a look at money saving cooking, so stay tuned! 


You will also learn how a vacuum sealer can help. In the meantime shop around here  www.vacupack.com and www.vacupack.ca


By: Marinus Hoogendoorn

Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Grow your Own Local Produce




CHEFTALK



How to grow your own local produce?




A recipe to grow your own vegetables

The day after I wrote my previous blog, the one about the food trends, I received a message from a Facebook friend, living in California. She sent me a couple of stunning pictures,  showcasing her, I must say, very impressive vegetable garden, the place was beautifully kept and what impressed me most was that everything they had planted was growing in pots.

The idea

Jalapeno Peppers
I thought that when all these incredible looking vegetables can grow in pots than all of us should be able to have our own home grown produce.  Maybe we do not all have or live in a Californian climate but there are definitely vegetables that can grow in different climates and when they can grow in pots you should be able to grow them anywhere, on your balcony or indoors, in case you do not have a garden.

Upon asking, she told me that the pots, they are all black, become very hot and they need to water them daily because the climate she lives in is pretty hot at times. She gets her husband to do the watering, I found that an idea on itself. 


I live in a hot climate as well, but have not been able to grow even one vegetable in a pot, the proof is on the left, so I decided to try and figure out how and what is the best way to grow your own vegetables.

I Googled it –up.  Unfortunately for me, I do not know a lot about gardening let alone vegetable gardening, I rely on what I read (and think that I can believe what I read), in that respect I always get a little up-set when I come across statements that are not helping me. The first statement I found was ‘You can grow vegetables in a pot, even when you do not have much sunny ground’. Next line ‘all you need is a big pot, soil and six hours of sun per day. Poof, I am out.  To be fair I decided to read a bit further and found that six hours of sunlight actually meant six hours of daylight, benefit of the doubt for that one.

How to start and what you need

Important part is the type of soil to use, sounds like getting the right ingredients to cook a dish, I understand that a lot better. Temperature of the soil seems to be important as well, also something I can comprehend. Gardening is like cooking and can therefore be fun.

Potting medium

You need to use a high quality mix containing peat moss and perlite, blend in a complete fertilizer, preferably an organic one containing alfalfa meal, bone meal or kelp meal. It is starting to sound like a recipe by now and I am getting more exited. Soil polymers help to regulate the dry wet cycle especially when you water by hand, these small crystals absorb their weight more than one hundred times in water and keep the roots of your precious baby plants moist when you forget to water them for a day or so.

Some soil temperatures at planting time:

Beans              at least 60 degrees
Carrots            at least 55 degrees
Cucumbers      at least 70 degrees
Eggplant          at least 70 degrees
Peppers           at least 60 degrees
Potatoes          at least 45 degrees

When you get your soil temperature within this range, you’re off to a pretty good start. 


Any vegetable that grows in the ground can be grown in a container, as long as you use drainable pots. Big sized crops like pumpkins may not be worth the effort but you don’t have to stick with so called patio varieties. Most standard size vegetables are suitable for container or pot culture. For beans and carrots, plan to sow the seeds directly in the soil filled container. Grow other types of vegetables from seed or purchase ready to go plants. Eggplants, peppers and tomatoes take about eight weeks to develop into seedlings ready to be replanted into a bigger pot.  




Loads of Tomatoes
I truly believe that growing your own vegetables is worth a try and can be very rewarding and cost saving. I wish to thank my Facebook friend for this great idea and allowing me to use the pictures from her vegetable garden.

When you become a successful gardener and have a respectable harvest. 
Pre-prepare the excessive crops, vacuum and freeze. 

That remains a splendid idea. 
   


By: The gardener under study. Marinus Hoogendoorn     







Friday, July 4, 2014

The Food Trends Of 2014




CHEF TALK




The food trends of 2014


Every year the new food trends for the coming year appear all over the food lovers media.

Food is next to water and in exceptional cases shelter, the main survival for man. Trends are for the imagination of people. Here is my selection for your imagination.

1. Locally sourced produce:

Americans are increasingly craving for produce grown in their own region, rather than imported delicacies. The National Restaurant Association found in their ‘What’s Hot in 2014 chef survey, that the top trend for 2014 will be locally grown produce and locally sourced seafood and meats.

So we can expect more stuff from our backyard on the menu when we go to our favorite lunch stop. Aren't we funny people? We were dying for imported products from exotic holiday destinations, now we want the return of the carrot.

2. Vegetables triumph:

Meat loving America goes veggie. Another survey found that more than half of all Americans eat at least one protein free, or vegetarian meal per week, up 40% since 2007. One third of all restaurants have at least one vegetarian dish as entrée without shying customers away.

That is good news for all animals and animal lovers. The vegetarian food campaigners are beating the Paleo diet lovers. Top veggies are onions and tomatoes. Locally grown? Let’s hope so.

3. Healthy Kid meals:

The N.R.A. found that parents are fighting obesity among children. They want healthier kid’s meals on restaurant menus. One of the top 10 trends.

This show’s where the local produce and veggie trends come from. Parents are looking at their own obesity. Blame it on the kids menu and forget that they feed their kids. Anyway, more apples and yoghurt is a good idea for many of us.

4. Gluten free:

Who ever thought that gluten free was a passing-by trend will be proven wrong. Buck wheat pasta, rice noodles and more recent popular grains like quinoa and amaranth are still high on the trend list.

This is great news. All purpose flour is questionable by GMO dis-likers, so a bit of ‘healthy’ competition is more than welcome.

5. Instant ice cream:

In conjunction with the homegrown and get your local produce, this form of modern handicraft was just a matter of time. The use of liquid nitrogen is already popular in eateries, drawing many when dessert arrives. Soon it will appear all over the country making our ‘local ice cream’ in seconds.

Heston Blumenthal, the master of the smoking plate, has been running around the globe with a bottle of liquid nitrogen for a few years now, so this trend was just a matter of time. Your locally produced strawberry with local produced cane sugar ice cream, on a locally produced gluten free bun, seems to be the upcoming craze. Ice cream sandwich. Yum.

6. Nuts:

High protein, healthy nuts are high on the list of carb-cutting Americans. A survey conducted late last year found that 70% of American households have nuts on hand and incorporate them in all three meals they consume per day.

Jimmy Carter pleaser. Nuts are good for you though and flax seeds are very high in Omega 3 fatty acids. Many other nuts have good health properties. Dr. Oz says that 3 meals plus 2 snacks per day helps to promote metabolism. So go for it, nuts work great in snacks.

7. Quality Pizza:

The times of cheap, layered with low-quality ingredients, pizza are ending. Artisan, Gourmet pizza chains are on the rise and gaining popularity among pizza lovers. Big backers are behind this trend and therefore it is likely to take the country by storm. You can expect a Gourmet pizza outlet in your neighborhood any time.

I beg your pardon, does this mean that America has been swallowing 350.000 slices of cheap low quality pizza everyday without realizing. These slices of soggy dough that touch the floor faster then they reach your mouth when they are pulled out of the delivery box. Homemade pizza is still your best choice when you ask me.

8. Chicken Wings:

America can’t get enough of them. In 2012, 13.5 Billion chicken wings were marketed. During the Super bowl weekend more than 1 Billion chicken wings are cooked, grilled, roasted, BBQ’ed and eaten. Stunning figures. Still the USDA predicts a 3% increase in chicken wing production.

Pretty much a contradiction to the veggie trend but it strikes with the local produce trend.

9. Upscale comfort food:

It is said that America should watch out for more upscale comfort food. Mac and cheese with sautéed salami, peppers, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and onions. “Highbrow comfort foods are popping up all over the menus” says a well known Hospitality Consultant based in California.

Somewhat baffling, if sautéed salami, peppers, garlic and onions with tomatoes, sun-dried or not, is upscale or “highbrow” what are these producers stuffing the Mac & cheese now with then?

To conclude: I love this stuff, looking forward to next year trends but wish to add that overall it seems that healthier eating is on the rise and that is a promising trend.


www.vacupack.com   www.vacupack.ca 


My trend, home cooked food, a balanced diet, by in bulk to save cost, buddy share, portion pack, vacuum and chill or freeze. KNOW WHAT YOU EAT!!
  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Food Safety and Should I Vacuum Package Food at Home




CHEFTALK


Food Safety and Should I Vacuum Package Food at Home




Introduction

Food safety appears to be a subject of serious concern to many. Food safety is an issue that consumers too often relate to the food producing industry. They continue to view the use and misuse of agricultural chemicals, pesticides and animal drugs as the major concern. Domestic issues are often not taken seriously enough for the average consumer to decide on measures to improve their own situation. Rarely our domestic food safety issues are considered to be a hazard.


Facts and Figures

Each year, 33 million people in the US alone become ill as a direct result of food borne illness, more than 9000 people die. Food borne illness related deaths comes with a cost of lost wages, insurance claims and medical bills of a staggering 23 billion dollars yearly.


Food Safety at Home

Food safety at home attributes largely to food borne illnesses. The most serious food safety problem in the United States is food borne illness of microbial origin. Microbial spoilage is caused by microorganisms like fungus, yeast and bacteria. They spoil food by growing in it and producing substances that change the color, odor and texture of the food making the food unfit for human consumption.


Something you do not want
Microbial spoilage happens more than often in our own homes. Contact spoilage is a term used when spoiled food comes in direct contact with sound food as a result of direct contact or touching between the food and any contaminated surface. This may be a contaminated chopping board, shelves or unwashed hands. It also includes food to food contact, for example between cooked and raw food. In general spoiled food is identified by smell, (sour milk) but it needs to be noted that not all bad food smells bad. (Salmonella contaminated food does not look or smells bad for example)

The world we live in with its rapid pace of living and our consumption style of living results in many people neglecting food safety standards at home and the social and financial impact it may have.


Reasons of Neglect

A limited commitment to food preparation activities at home. The no time factor.
A lack of knowledge of basic food safety principles, as described in HACCP standards.
Increased interest in convenience and saving time rather than proper food handling and preparation at home are some of the contributing factors of food borne illnesses that may occur due to neglect at home.


Why should I vacuum at home

Vacuum and be safe

Where and how does the vacuum sealer come in play and aid us with these issues on hand. 

First of all we need to ‘really’ understand that a vacuum sealer is not a magic piece of equipment that solves all your food safety issues with the sound of air being sucked out of a vacuum bag. 

What does a vacuum sealer do then?

1. A vacuum sealer saves time and $Money.

2. A vacuum sealer maintains freshness and flavor three to five times longer than conventional storage. (money saving)

3. A vacuum sealer improves texture and appearance of food products.

4. A vacuum sealer disallows foods from drying out (no freezer burn)

5. A vacuum sealer improves marinating times for meats marinated and vacuumed.

6. A vacuum sealer greatly reduces wastage of foods (portion control, money saving).


BUT, 

  • We need to understand that vacuum sealed food still needs to be refrigerated or frozen.
  • We need to ensure hygienic working conditions and food handling procedures.
  • We need to use proper vacuum sealing bags. (Proper sealing)
  • We need to understand that vacuum sealed food left on the kitchen sink is still subject to bacterial activity and spoilage.



Fight it !

When we keep the above into account our food safety will improve and the investment in a quality vacuum sealer is more than worth your money spent.


Studies have shown that there is desire for foods with a fresh taste that are minimally packed and processed, a very encouraging trend. It means that consumers move towards fresh produce, pre-prepare at home, portion pack and vacuum their own prepared meals or parts thereof.

Labor saving pieces of food equipment like food processors and microwave ovens are almost common like a TV in many households.

 A quality vacuum sealer should definitely be part of that list.


Quality Vacuum Sealer


Invest in a quality vacuum sealer:    www.vacupack.com    www.vacupack.ca 

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn

   

Friday, June 20, 2014

How to prepare, Cook and Enjoy White Asparagus




CHEFTALK

How to prepare, cook and enjoy white asparagus




We all like our food fresh, when it comes to vegetables, storage is very important. Recipes never talk about this part because they give you the ingredients and a cooking description but it is quite unlikely that you use everything you purchase in one go.

Storage:
It is then also good to know that vegetables do not ‘die’ instantly after harvest, there is an ongoing metabolic activity going on in vegetables after harvest. This includes the intake of oxygen, breaking down of starches and sugars and the release of carbon dioxide, this activity is referred to as ‘respiration rate’.

Metabolic activity makes vegetables wither. They dry out with the release of moist and change color. For some vegetables the respiration rate is higher than for others. Asparagus have a very high respiration rate. At refrigeration temperatures it is about five times greater than for onions and potatoes and three times greater than for lettuce and tomatoes. Asparagus are therefore quite perishable and are best consumed within 48 hours of purchase. If you have come across some great looking asparagus and need to store them for one or two days, rap a damp cloth or wet kitchen paper around the base and give them a light vacuum. If you do not have a vacuum sealer, wrap them completely with a damp towel.


Preparation:

To prepare white or green asparagus you need to peel them, the skin of thick green asparagus is quite tough and the skin of white asparagus is not edible and bitter after cooking. Asparagus are brittle and when peeled when held up or in your hand, they can easily be broken.
The best way to peel asparagus is by placing them flat on a chopping board let the tip stick out of the board so you do not have to lift them. A little too much pressure during peeling is enough to break them. Cut about 1 inch from the base and hold them one by one gently by the tip between you thumb and index finger. Using a vegetable peeler carefully peel the skin, which starts just under the tip, from tip to base. 



Personally I like to use a peeler as pictured because the peel does not get stuck too much in the peeler.
When you have peeled them all, place them in a flat shallow pot, add the water, butter, salt and lemon as per the recipe and cover with a piece of cloth. If you want to preserve and use the flavorful asparagus stock later, top the asparagus with the skin peel then the cloth.
Covering asparagus with a piece of cloth ensures they remain under water, asparagus float in water and to ensure even cooking the cloth keeps them below surface. Bring to a boil, when the water boils lower the heat.



Cooking:

Now, depending on the thickness of the asparagus, simmer for 5 to 8 minutes and if you pierce them with a small knife and they feel softened, turn of the heat and leave to stand for 20 minutes. Or until serving time, Asparagus are best kept in their own flavored stock.
The only ‘Classic’ way to eat white asparagus is with bone- ham, Hollandaise sauce and a one (1) minute boiled egg. Variations are boiled potatoes and soft boiled egg. Nice, but wrong.
Below is the most classic of classic recipes to eat white gold.
When you happen to visit a German speaking country or the South of Holland, this is how asparagus are served. 


The recipe
The recipe is for a starter size dish and serves 4




Ingredients:

For the asparagus
16 medium sized white asparagus
1 good tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ of a lemon
1 pound bone ham (sliced)
4 eggs
Salt

For the sauce
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
8 oz unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
   
Method:
  • Cook the asparagus as described above, by peeling them, then place them in a shallow pot, cover with water. Add the butter, salt and lemon.
  • When the asparagus are feeling soft when pierced with a small knife, about 5 to 7 minutes, turn of the heat and leave for 20 minutes or so.
  • The sauce is a bit of the tricky part when you are not familiar with Hollandaise sauce.
  • Melt the butter and keep aside.
  • Bring a small pot of water to a simmering bowl.
  • Place the egg yolks in a mixing bowl with the white wine vinegar. Make sure that the mixing bowl fits nicely on top of the bowl with simmering water.
  • Start whisking the egg yolks until they become fluffy and of yoghurt thickness. This is the tricky part, if the egg yolks become too hot you may end up with scrambled eggs. When you notice that the yolks start to curdle, remove from the heat add a bit of water ½ tbsp. and continue whisking.        
  • When the right consistency is achieved, add the melted butter slowly, (like making mayonnaise)
  • Add so much melted butter until you reach the white part on the bottom of the pan, this is the water from the butter.
  • Season the sauce with a pinch of salt and keep warm.
  • Prepare the eggs by placing them in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, boil for one minute and give them a quick rinse under cold water.
  • Place the ham slices on top of the asparagus and bring back to boil. This to warm the ham and will take about 2 minutes.
  • Remove the ham from the asparagus. Divide the asparagus over 4 individual plates. Arrange the ham slices on the side. Tap the eggs bottom down on the kitchen sink so they stand up straight and place an egg on every plate. Top with the sauce and serve warm.
  • Your guest can now chop the top of the egg and dip an asparagus in the egg.

An absolute delicious experience!











When you love your asparagus this way, here is the good news. Asparagus freeze very well when vacuumed. Buy some extra vacuum and freeze them. Raw and pre- cooked both methods work perfect. 




Find your vacuum sealer here:   www.vacupack.com  www.vacupack.ca


By Marinus Hoogendoorn

Saturday, June 14, 2014

It's Asparagus Season. Time to eat White Gold




CHEFTALK

It is Asparagus season!!! Time to eat white gold



In fact I am late, my excuses for that but better late than never as the saying goes. In Europe were the seasonal tradition is kept high, the asparagus season starts Mid- April and ends in June, on June 24 to be precise, the feast of John the Baptist.

The timing has a reason as the ground needs to be at a certain temperature before the spears start to grow towards the sun. The spears are covered with soil so they stay white. Long stretches of ‘dyke like’ patched up soil can be seen when you travel through one of touristic asparagus routes set out during the asparagus season in Germany, Belgium and the South of Holland.

The ultra violet of the sun, which makes exposed parts of vegetables green, is not able to oxidize the asparagus skin. White asparagus or white gold as they are also called are the delicious result.


When the ground ‘cracks’ the farmers know that the asparagus is ready for harvest, the ground is carefully removed around that single piece and with a long ‘looks like a screw driver’ tool, the asparagus is then cut from the base underground.

Asparagus harvesters are hawk-eyed buggers, inspecting the stretches of asparagus dykes from the early morning until midday. The moment a crack is spotted, the asparagus is in the bag, quite like salmon fishing with your bare hands.
As said, the season is from Mid-April until the end of June, officially the season last only 9 weeks and that makes asparagus so special. The crowd is drawn from hundreds of miles away, tracking the asparagus routes and buying some of the freshest asparagus straight of the field.

Unlike in the US were asparagus can be found year round, it needs mentioning here that there is a famous asparagus festival in Stockton CA on June 25, Europe keeps the seasonal tradition high and you need to have a look in history to get a better understanding why that is so.

Asparagus most likely came to Germany after the conquest of the Roman Empire using the lavish land to comply with high demands for asparagus in their homeland. When the Roman Empire crumbled the asparagus industry diminished and became virtually unknown, only to be revived in the mid-16th century by monastery monks.

Asparagus were green those years. A cool legend has it that a hailstorm once destroyed a complete harvest and the locals were forced to eat the small remaining part that was left underground. This part, being white, happened to be much tenderer than the green asparagus the people were used to, hence the popularity of the white asparagus. 

Asparagus 'dykes' 
The sprouts were covered with soil to be protected from weather conditions and the tenderer white asparagus was born.
Another tale relates the popularity of asparagus to the fact that is was once a Royal food and who doesn't want to eat royal food that is referred to as white gold.

The word asparagus is probably as old as the road to Rome so to speak. It is said that the word comes from the Persian word for ‘shoot’ which is asparg. The first A was dropped in Europe and Sparg or Spargel became the common mentioning of the vegetable. The British started calling the white gold ‘sparrow grass’ which annoyed some experts who found that such a Royal vegetable should have a classier name and referred to it as Asparagus.


Asparagus grow as a shoot from long horizontal placed strings of the mother plant, placed under ground the shoot works its way up towards the sun and when exposed to sunlight chloroform from the plant oxidizes and the asparagus turns green.

Early days asparagus cover
To prevent this from happening, pots were placed on top of the vegetable to stop the penetration of sunlight. Later farmers found the dyke method a better and easier way to produce the white gold vegetable.

There is still little time left to enjoy asparagus, when you follow the season that is.



In my next blog I will give you some great traditional asparagus recipes to enjoy and how to vacuum and keep asparagus for when the season is over.   

If you like to purchase a vacuum sealer before the next blog, find them here:

                                 www.vacupack.com   www.vacupack.ca

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn