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Total asparagus cultivation in the Netherlands has risen dramatically during the last three years, according to a report by the CBS (Statistics Netherlands) released just two weeks ago. Indeed, there was an overall increase of 18 percent, most of which can be attributed to the Dutch province of Limburg. And asparagus production also rose in North Brabant, albeit to a lesser extent.
Although the bulk of Dutch asparagus now comes from North Limburg, this has not always been the case. The first asparagus cultivation of the nineteenth century, mainly took place on the sandy dunes of South and North Holland and on the Brabantse Wal near Bergen op Zoom. It was only in the 1920’s that asparagus production shifted to North Limburg and in particular to the town of Grubbenvorst, where asparagus auctions are still regularly held. It was discovered that the area’s sandy soil was ideal for asparagus, and as it was close to the German border, the town benefited from a large additional market for their delicacy.
In the Netherlands the asparagus season is very brief and lasts just two months. Traditionally, asparagus is harvested from the second Thursday in April to 24th June, when the catholic festival of Sint Jan is celebrated. Since 2006, Dutch white asparagus proudly displays a distinctive, blue-coloured mark of quality bearing the Dutch flag, which guarantees the asparagus is from Dutch soil. Compared to other vegetables, asparagus is relatively expensive, as the harvesting of asparagus spears is done by hand. This is because asparagus ripens entirely underground and each spear must be carefully detected by the naked eye and then cut directly from the soil.
A traditional Dutch way to prepare asparagus is to peel the asparagus, cook for 8 to 10 minutes and finally serve with a few slices of ham, a boiled egg and a tasty asparagus sauce. You can also prepare a delicious soup from asparagus peel or add cooked asparagus pieces to ready-made asparagus soup.