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!