I grew up in a Perth, on the west coast of Australia and am now an Australian ex pat living in Germany. Perth has a warm and mild mediterranean climate, the same as Rome and Los Angeles. I live in the Rein Valley in Germany now where the climate lurches from snow in winter to a sticky, humid 40C in summer. Some people may like the tropical warmth. Certainly the Swiss do, they send new army units to the Rein Valley in summer to train for tropical conditions. There is no respite from the heat either since air conditioning is just not considered necessary over here. No. Air. Conditioning. Ah, the stoic Germans!
But spring time in Germany is a wondrous thing. After months of freezing temperatures, when you stay indoors as much as possible simply to survive, spring slowly emerges and reassures you that life really will return once more.
The first hint that spring may be on its way is when the temperature outside is above zero several days in a row. At first you may be suspicious. Is this just a once off? But when it happens a few more times you start to believe that things might be changing. No longer do you speak in hushed tones of seven being seven degrees below zero. No, now you proudly proclaim it is seven above zero.
Truly, the excitement builds until it peaks when you first spy those first cheerful daffodils in people’s gardens or the bleak and grey woods. When I was growing up I always hated the colour yellow. It reminded me of dry, dead grass in hot, interminable Perth summers. Now, I love yellow and see it as a blast of colour amongst the dullness of winter.
One minute it seems everything is grey and it is winter and then before you know it, trees are full of blossoms without there having been any intermediary phase that you could tell. They literally go wild with flowers before their leaves appear. It seems deciduous trees are really only willing or able to do one thing at a time. They can either have flowers or leaves, take your pick you can’t have both. I don’t want to be nasty about European trees but fair crack of the whip mate, Australian gums can do both at the same time.
A few weeks later, the flowers fall off and the ends of the tree branches swell in a type of arboreal pregnancy. Shortly after that, they celebrate the arrival of their leaves. By the time actual leaves appear, it feels like celebrations involving balloons should be held. I think this is why Easter makes a lot more sense in the northern hemisphere. All those flowers, eggs and fecund rabbits speak of rebirth and Spring. What about chocolate I hear you ask, what is the significance of chocolate to Easter or Spring? I have no idea except to say that, chocolate makes sense at any time of the year!
Spring brings the less hardy amongst the population back to the Farmer’s Markets at Gutenberg Platz in Karlsruhe. Suddenly it is hard to get a park for your bike again (there should be preferred bike parks for those of us that have been going all through winter). People put their JackWolfskin coats on and patiently queue at the coffee stand. Tulips appear at the flower stalls, the candle making man has Easter bunny candles and the first of the asparagus appears, which is white.
This means it wont be long until the green asparagus is available and then I can tuck in. Have you ever heard people say they can’t or won’t eat something due to the texture of it in their mouth? White asparagus is like that for me. The day comes when I want to taste something slimy but fibrous at the same time then I will tuck into some white asparagus.
Food is a lot more seasonal in Germany. I wasn’t expecting this because as part of the European Union I assumed warmer regions of the union would grow things in winter to keep the supply up. This is not the case. Food is seasonal and you can tell what season it is by what is available. It’s like, if there are strawberries then it must be June. The exception to this is tomatoes and avocados which are generally available all year round, phew! Clearly these two items are essentials.
Anyway, asparagus becomes available for a short while and then come the raspberries followed by the strawberries. German berries are amazing. They actually have flavour, who of us growing up in Australia knew? But I am getting ahead of myself since we are only just seeing the first of the white asparagus at this point. For those delicious berries I will have to wait a bit more.