Seasonal Eating Guide: What to Eat in April

White and green asparagus at the market

I seem to say this pretty much every month but I think I truly mean it this time when I say that this is my favourite time of year to wander around the markets inspecting the fresh produce on offer.  There’s a palpable buzz in the air in the marketplace at the beginning of Spring, caused not just by the first days of sunshine and bright blue skies, but presumably also the advent of the asparagus season – the Germans don’t half go bonkers for their treasured white gold.

Everywhere you look at the farmers’ markets, stalls are virtually sagging under the weight of various spring roots and salad leaves- flat, round and curly; ruby red and emerald green.  There are mountains of white asparagus as far as the eye can see and, pleasingly, bunches of locally-grown green asparagus are available these days, too.  The first punnets of German strawberries also start appearing around now, though my advice would be to hold off a few weeks until the sweetest, reddest fruits are on offer.  I’ve never tasted a strawberry as good as the ones grown round here and I can assure you that the high season fruits are well worth the wait.  So for now, and although this month, it’s genuinely difficult for me to choose, these are the five seasonal recommendations for April.

Asparagus

Green asparagus

White (Spargel) is Germany’s king of vegetables, and they’re the star of the spring and early summer here.  Choose the more expensive stalks (white asparagus is graded, so the more you pay for it, the better it is), snap off their woody ends, peel them, simmer them in boiling water and add a knob of butter when they’re cooked.  White asparagus honestly needs nothing else, though the most classic German way to eat it is with new potatoes and Hollandaise sauce (and I’d highly recommend cream of white asparagus soup, too).  Green asparagus (grüner Spargel), which is much easier to prepare as it doesn’t need peeling (though you should still snap off the ends), needs very little else other than butter either, in my opinion, but you can’t go far wrong with:

★ Felicity Cloake’s cheesy asparagus tart,
★ a simple asparagus risotto or
★ a portion served with prosciutto and scrambled egg.

(Plus here’s 10 more ideas for green asparagus; and another 17 ideas for white!)

Lamb

It’s available year-round, but springtime is when lamb (Lamm) is at its most plentiful.  It’s very tender at this time of year because the lambs are still very young when they’re slaughtered, and because the lamb’s haven’t had long to graze, the meat is less flavourful than when purchased at other times of the year.  Lamb is not as popular in Germany as pork and beef, however, so it’s not necessarily easy to get your hands on the cut you want (though the cuts don’t seem to differ greatly from those in the UK).  In Wiesbaden, the best lamb – reared locally in the Taunus – is to be found at the farmers’ market; you can otherwise purchase good quality imported meat at many of the Turkish supermarkets in the Wiesbaden Westend as well as at Karstadt (both fresh and frozen).  Wherever you are, why not get your hands on a some and cook up:

★ Diana Henry’s butterflied leg of lamb with Persian mint syrup,
★ Nigel Slater’s spring lamb steaks with minted potatoes, or
★ Melissa Clark’s lamb chops with dates, feta, sumac and tahini.

Radishes

Bunches of round red radishes

I was never particularly keen on radishes (Radieschen) until I moved to Germany and ate fresh ones from the market.  They come in various shapes and sizes, the most well known probably being the fat red ball-shaped ones that are so wonderfully peppery and crunchy that I find impossible to resist.  Cut any of them into thin slices or chunks and use them to perk up any sort of salad you fancy, but I also love them:

roasted (game changer!)
★ with Diana Henry’s creamy claqueret dip, or
★ in tzatziki, with pita bread (which would also go rather well with some of that lamb)

But hey!  Don’t chuck out the green bits!

Wild Garlic

Wild garlic at the market
Wild garlic

Wild garlic  (Bärlauch), also known as ramps or ransoms, is popular in Germany for its medicinal properties: it’s apparently antibacterial, antiseptic and proven to reduce blood pressure (source).  However, it’s mostly popular with me for being utterly delicious.  The long, thin, dark green leaves have a much milder taste than garlic bulbs, and you can add it to basically anything you fancy.  If you’ve never eaten it before, how about buying a bunch and trying out:

poached eggs with wild garlic on toast,
asparagus, wild garlic and pea risotto or
★ Tom Kerridge’s grilled lamb chops with wild garlic pesto.

New potatoes

Annabelle potatoes
Annabelle potatoes

You’ll find two kinds of new potatoes (Frühkartoffeln) dominating the tuber scene at this time of year: Annabelle, a waxy (Festkochend) and Gala, a medium-waxy (Vorwiegend Festkochend) potato.  (See my guide to buying potatoes in Germany for more on potato types.)  They both have thin skins and yellow flesh and are well-suited for doing all the sorts of things you’d like to do with a potato at this time of year: putting it in a salad or using it whole, unpeeled and boiled and served with a knob of butter and sprinkling of salt and parsley alongside some meat or fish.  If you want to step things up a notch, however, how about making:

★ Yotam Ottolenghi’s fabulous potato salad with quails’ eggs, petit pois and pesto (you can find quails’ eggs at farmers’ market and also at Karstadt)
★ Jamie Oliver’s baked new potatoes with sea salt and rosemary or
★ a new potato, asparagus and feta frittata.

Also in season in April:

Spring onions (Frühlingszwiebeln) and salad leaves such as garden lettuce (Kopfsalat), lamb’s lettuce (Feldsalat), curly endive (Friséesalat) and rocket (Rucola).  Also worth a mention are the abundant fresh herbs, which you can buy throughout the year grown in greenhouses, but are in season and harvested locally around now.  You can purchase them in generous individual bunches but also in bundles packaged together for seasoning specific dishes – and of course for making Frankfurter Grüne Soße.

Have you got any particular favourite fruit and veg on the go at the moment?  Any seasonal recipes to recommend?

18 Comments

  • I love lamb, but I find it really expensive here… probably because I can only get it at Karstadt or Scheck-In and both of those are just expensive in general.

    I keep seeing rhubarb everywhere, but I’ve never done anything with fresh rhubarb so I’m a bit scared to buy it. LOL. As for spring onions, I’m using those in everything at the minute!

    • You’re right, Karstadt is pretty pricey for meat. We’ve got lots of amazing Turkish shops round here where it’s much more affordable, but there’s a small stall at the market from a farm in the Taunus (Hof Berbalk) and their lamb is really good quality, really tasty and really good value. I can’t tell you what a happy discovery that was!

      And don’t be scared of rhubarb 🙂 Get yourself a couple of stalks, wash them, cut them up into finger-sized bits, sprinkle generously with sugar and some water and roast for 10-15 minutes or so till it’s soft, but not mushy. And then cover it with cream 😀

  • Cheesy asparagus tart and asparagus risotto sound delicious! I made a tart once using storebought puff pastry…you can’t really go wrong with that 😉
    And ramps! There’s actually a one-day Ramp Festival about 40 min away from me. I might check it out this year!

    • I cannot imagine even contemplating making my own puff pastry, store bought all the way! And a wild garlic festival, that sounds brilliant. (We say wild garlic in the UK, i can’t quite get used to saying ramps 😉 )

  • We went for a walk yesterday and there was an abundance of Bärlauch growing in the wood so we picked half a carrier bag and I’m going to make preserved Wild garlic leaves stuffed with cream cheese this evening and a pesto made from pine nuts and hard cheese. Can’t wait for the asparagus season to start and I’m going to eat my first serving with this recipe: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/02/aubergine-kuku-recipe-vegetarian-cooking

    • Such a good recipe, that aubergine kuku, I made it for the first time this winter 🙂 I’ll be interested to know how it goes with the white asparagus – I can’t really imagine what they would taste like together. But wild garlic pesto, wild garlic with cream cheese, wild garlic everything… delicious! 🙂 How do you preserve it?

  • Just put the bag of white asparagus I got this morning in Aachen in my London fridge …. OMG how much more excited can a girl get?! Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik et al, eat your heart out.

  • Well, I thought the combination of the asparagus with the aubergine kuku which contains eggs will go well together so I’ll let you know if it works. I used this recipe to preserve the wild garlic. Scroll down: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/mar/28/cream-cheese-recipes-10-best-french-toast-baked-eggs-onions I only used 2 teaspoons of cumin and would recommend only 3 paprika but I’m looking forward to trying it in a weeks time. It’s not typical German but it’s still nice to work with seasonal ingredients.

    • Those stuffed leaves are such a great idea – and actually, involving the paprika makes it sound and look pretty German, too! I’ll definitely give those a go – thanks for the recommendation 🙂 (And glad to see someone else uses the same online source for recipes as me! 😉 )

  • How sad is it that I’ve never cooked lamb OR wild garlic? I’m getting on those lamb chops with wild garlic pesto, asap! And those poached eggs with the garlic too. I’m diving headfirst into all kinds of whole foods I never really enjoyed before, so I’m looking forward to all your guides to help, well, guide me through it!

    • Well, I only cooked with wild garlic for the first time when I came to Germany 🙂 I guess it’s all about what’s available and what you’re used to – I’ve never really seen lamb much in shops when I’ve been staying with my sister in California – ? Looking forward to guiding you 😉 hehe

    • I can totally understand that – I wouldn’t trust myself to pick wild things at all 😉 But can you really not find any over there? That’s rubbish! It’s been terribly fashionable in that London the last few years and there’s always recipes in the papers, but I suppose you’d probably have to trek to Borough Market or something to get hold of some.

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