Where Wild Asparagus Reigns

May 29, 2014 / Events
Eggi, Umbria

Eggi (pop. about 400), medieval castle village near Spoleto, is celebrating la Sagra degli Asparagi triumphantly this year: with all the rain, it’s a bountiful year for wild asparagus. A lead volunteer, Eva, invited me into the kitchen of the typical sagra pre-fab tent where local women flanked chef Giancarlo in white jacket and toque – in the corner, making the strangozzi pasta – as they turned out asparagus goodness. They chatted and laughed as hands flew.

Eggi belltower
Eggi sagra, since 1984
Giancarlo, pasta cheft
-Pasta ready!- calls out

Wild asparagus starred in dishes ranging from antipasti to soup to pasta to meats and even desserts (ah, heavenly that crostata di asparagi, asparagus tart). Eva told me proudly that intrepid local wild asparagus hunters (many of them elderly pensionati, i.e. “retired”), scrambling up and down wooded hills for hours, are coming home with bundles “weighing kilos!” Wizened, gray-haired Giuseppe, grilling sausages and pork chops just outside the kitchen, nodded his agreement: he’s found even two kilos a day in his asparagus forages this spring.

Asapargus soup - che buono!
Crostata di asparagi
Gianni on the grill

And Eggi women excel at tantalizing wild asparagus dishes. Signora Sina stirred wild asparagus pasta sauces (one with tomato, one without) while nearby, Signora Agnese spooned creamy asparagus sauce onto moist slices of roast beef. Rita and Antonella spead asparagus-pate’ onto bruschetta and another Rita flipped golden asparagus frittate. When I asked the kitchen crew, “mamma mia, why so many Rite in this town?”, one replied with a smile, “Probaby because we’re so close to Cascia!” (Note: Santa Rita was born in 1381 in Cascia, about 30 mins from Eggi). Signora’ Rita’s frittata di asparagi was the tenderest I’ve ever had and she shared her secret with me: local olive oil, just the right amount of salt (“q.b” or quanto basta) and use 10 eggs for a medium-sized frittata.

Roast beef!
Asparagus pate' goodness
Asparagus frittata and local red

Signora Eva placed the plastic plates mounded with asparagus strangozzi on trays and passed them on to the younger volunteers waiting at the counter, eager to serve them to hungry waiting guests in the tent dining room.

When I asked smiling Georgia – nine years old – why she would be running tables for ten nights at the sagra, she replied, “Perche’ ci divertiamo tanto!” (“Because it’’s so much fun!”)

Good times in EGGI

And the youthful wait staff is not the only group enjoying Eggi asparagus sagra good times: just outside the food tent, a band plays as elderly and younger couples waltz, fox trot and mazurka. A good way to digest the asparagus goodness.

Deciding on the choices
the MENU

Let's dance!

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

24 Responses to “Where Wild Asparagus Reigns”

  1. Enrica

    I love it, Anne! I too have picked lots of wild asparagus this year!

  2. Ginny Umiker

    Wonderful article! I miss both Sagras and wild asparagus!

  3. lewis murray

    gb….please tell anne that her article on wild asparagus almost drove me to call united airlines to book on the first flight to rome out of washington, d.c. otherwise live here in chevy chase, maryland, is quite ejoyable. regards, lewis

  4. Janice

    Anne, please post a recipe for asparagus pate’. Sounds so delicious!

  5. Nancy Mazza

    Annie-those sagras sound like so much fun…for all ages. Thanks for telling us about it. It reminds me of the Greek Festivals here in SF. Wish there was an Italian one!

  6. Debbie

    this was a fabulous article! certainly got my juices running for sure! the only thing lacking? RECIPES!!! is it possible???

  7. Anne, wasn’t thinking about asparagus but after reading your article… Now I want some asparagus. I viewed the menu and started from the top saying, I want to try that one and that one and that one. Soon I was at the bottom and realized I might be to full to dance but I will have more wine. Thanks for the culinary experience, made my day!!!

  8. Corin

    What a wonderful day!
    Thanks for transporting me to Umbria for a few minutes this morning!

  9. Ginny Siggia

    I love asparagus and this is a great article. I’m going to try to work up some recipes!!

  10. Annamaria

    Asparagus rules!! Seeing these mouth-watering dishes makes asparagus REGALE. Thanks for this wonderful article about a wonderful and versatile vegetable.

  11. Trudy Friedrich

    Looks and sounds delicious ,would of liked to experience the event . Thanks again for your wisdom and friendship.

  12. Jack Litewka

    Oh, now I’m hungry. I’ll have to make my next trip to Italy happen in May/June.

  13. Deborah Salae

    Again, Anne, reading your post makes me yearn desperately for a return visit to la bella Italia. I honestly think your photographs are the most colorful and you always capture such great Italian faces. It always is a happy day when I see your name on an e-mail from the Italian Notebook because I know I’m in for a quick, vibrant peek into the life of the other country I love.

  14. Jan Johnson

    The humble asparagus never looked so good! So sorry I can’t say ‘tasted’ instead. Thanks Annie for yet another brilliant anecdote.

  15. Gull-Britt Lundstrom

    Your story and picture make me feel hungry and sad that I am not there!

  16. Katie Larsh

    Delicious! I hope to get some recipes in September! Love to read all your posts about la Bella Umbria!

  17. Diane McCrann

    Asparagus is my favorite! I can taste this wonderful dish. Recipes please! Keep writing Anne and showing us the “real ” Italy.

  18. Louise Montalbano

    After this write-up and photos, Anne, you have us sold. We will be joining you next year. But in the meantime…. Asparagus is on our menu all weekend!!!!

  19. Asparagus……who knew it could be so delicious and at the same time so much fun to celebrate! Wish I had the ability to make it to all of the wonderful places you describe in your articles! Until then, I will live them, as best I can, through your words and your pictures. You definitely bring things to life!

  20. Sandi spector

    Knew this could only be an article by Annie R. since they are all wonderful stories. Keep them up. Hopefully next year we can tour with you again – whoopie!

  21. Marianna Raccuglia

    Ditto to all of the above. I would like to taste it all and visit all. Your wonderful stories, your descriptive way with words make me want to be there. Thanks so much!


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