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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. And a one, and a two, and a three...

(Music up and under: The Oompah Band, "Lustig Ist Das Zigeunerleben")

CURWOOD: It's National Asparagus Month. And this member of the lily family is at the peak of its growing season. Now, you may think this bushel of sprouts may be just another green in your local grocery store, but in Europe it's the prize of the platter. For example, from April to June, German restaurants display special spargelkartes, asparagus menus, along with their regular culinary fare. The Germans call asparagus the aristocrat of vegetables. That's because the season for fresh white asparagus is so short, it's the most expensive vegetable on the market. The asparagus frenzy is so great that last year Berlin's city government even established spargelschulen, asparagus schools, for unemployed Germans to learn how to harvest asparagus. They pick the white delicacy underground, where it's purposefully grown to prevent any green chlorophyll from forming. For some people, eating this royal vegetable can produce a less than regal odor. Asparagus contains a small amount of the same sulfur compound that makes eggs rotten and skunks stinky. And many people find it can give their urine a peculiar scent. But not everyone. Thanks to genetic variation, some folks can consume asparagus without generating an unwelcome aroma, and others can't smell it at all. For them, asparagus might as well be a rose. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

(Music up and under)



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