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German Asparagus Pickers Mistaken for Armed Gang

MAINZ, Germany — Police in northeast Germany raced to what they thought was a 10-strong gang armed with knives and sticks over the weekend.

But much to their surprise, officers instead found a group of asparagus pickers walking to their lunch break.

Four squad cars and two undercover police vehicles were deployed after a "concerned citizen" near the city of Ludwigslust reported that "a group of 10 to 15 people armed with knives and sticks" was walking along a rural road just before noon (6 a.m. ET) on Saturday, police spokeswoman Stephanie Naedler told NBC News.

Image: Asparagus season in Kremmen
Polish harvesters cut the first asparagus in Kremmen, eastern Germany on April 13. BERND SETTNIK / EPA

White asparagus, cousin of the green variety common in the United States, is very popular in Germany during May and June. The long knives attached to the end of wooden poles that are used to harvest the vegetable were seemingly the source of the mistaken identity.

Naedler said the call came into authorities "just when the workers come from the fields to get food in the next town over." They were working in a large field were a Dutch businessman grows white asparagus in the rural area between Hamburg and Berlin during the spring harvesting season.