Hunting for wild asparagus

Asparagus in the wild in early spring.

Foraging for wild plants to serve with a meal is a favorite activity of many Italians. Last fall we saw dozens of families picking up hazelnuts from the sides of the roads around Lago Vico. We’ve seen people picking greens on the side of the highways and read stories about families who jealously guard information about where to find the best mushrooms in the fall.  We’ve harvested fennel flowers from the fields around Viterbo and dried them for use in risotto.

Last weekend we took a lovely walk that included serious hunting for wild asparagus. Richard led the way, armed with a plastic bag and a sharp eye for the tiny shoots that are nearly indiscernible from small sticks. The secret is to find the asparagus plant itself, recognizable by light green frothy fronds. The challenge is to find the small individual shoots that appear at random intervals near the main plant. The narrow asparagus spears are quite dark and often nearly overgrown by the surrounding dry grass.

Between the four of us we managed to pick enough to make one generous asparagus frittata. The taste is very subtle but definitely has an asparagus flavor. Because we gathered them ourselves, they tasted particularly delicious and fresh and wild. Asparagus hunting is definitely a worthwhile spring activity!


2 responses to “Hunting for wild asparagus

  1. Hi Christina:
    We thought we’d try this method of communicating with you. Your summer posting on “Hesperides” was wonderful! We are at Geralyn’s brother’s place in Arizona, and have fresh basil, pine nuts, and olive oil. Can you advise us on a good pesto recipe for bruschetta? And/or pasta? We want to share it with G’s Mom when she comes up this weekend.
    All our best to you and Richard!
    – Steve and Geralyn

    • Great to hear from you Steve. That’s a coincidence! I’ve been making pesto with the new students this week.
      On buonaforchetta there is a recipe under recipes then primi, then Trenette al pesto.
      The recipe uses the minimum amount of basil, if you have lots use a huge bunch, picking over the leaves carefully. You can use less oil if you like but make sure you use quite a lot of the cooking water to slacken the pesto. You can use other vegetables than beans, I often use zucchini. If you want to use it on bread, then it’s probably best to stick more closely to the recipe quantities as obviously you don’t want to add hot water to the pesto in this case.

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