After praising German asparagus, Bush gets basketful from Washington state

McClatchy NewspapersJune 18, 2008 


Between April, when weather permitting the harvest begins, and June 20th, when, by tradition, the harvest must end, the talk throughout Berlin and much of Germany revolves around spargel, or white asparagus, shown here in a farm store in Beelitz, Germany.

MATT SCHOFIELD — Matt Schofield / MCT

WASHINGTON — His father doesn't like broccoli, but President Bush apparently likes asparagus, at least the German variety.

After the president called German asparagus "fabulous" following a dinner with Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, two Washington state lawmakers decided it was time to introduce him to the homegrown variety.

Ten pounds of Washington state asparagus were delivered to the White House on Tuesday courtesy of Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Doc Hastings. Well, not exactly the White House. An aide followed protocol and delivered the package to the vice president's liaison office in the Senate, where staffers were described as "cautiously excited and curious."

About 40 percent of the nation's asparagus is grown in Washington state on 10,000 acres in the Columbia Basin, Yakima Valley and Walla Walla area. The state's 175 asparagus growers produce 53 million pounds a year, worth about $28 million.

"Mr. President, if you liked the German variety, we guarantee you will love the Washington state variety," Murray and Hastings wrote in a letter to Bush.

The asparagus was purchased from Gourmet Trading in Pasco, Wash.

"My dad grew up picking asparagus in the Tri-Cities and I know it's the best in the world," Murray said in a statement.

Hastings added, "Anyone who enjoys asparagus is missing out if they haven't tried the asparagus we grow in Washington state, and I am sure he will appreciate the gift."

In a news conference a week ago with Merkel, Bush thanked her for the dinner, which included schnitzel, asparagus and fresh strawberries.

"Laura and I loved our dinner last night," Bush said. "For those in the German press who thought I didn't like asparagus, you're wrong. The German asparagus are fabulous."

Asparagus, especially the white variety in a hollandaise sauce, is an obsession in Germany.

In 2006, also after dinner with Merkel, Bush had high praise for the roasted boar. No word on whether domestic boar producers sent the president one of theirs after that comment.

Murray and Hastings couldn't pass up the opportunity, however. They even directed the president to recipes on the Washington Asparagus Growers Web site.

No comment yet from the White House on whether the first family will sample the Washington state asparagus.

McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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