Hunting Season: Wild Asparagus

April 4, 2013 / Food & Wine
Umbria

It was a chilly, wet spring day and I could see the clouds hanging low across the valley. My house, warm and cozy, sat on the ridge in the distance and here I was, rubber-booted and layered, in the woods in the rain.

Why? It’s hunting season. Wild asparagus waits for no woman.

wild-asparagus2My boots squelched in the mud of the dirt road that bisects the woods up here. I sighted the telltale sign of asparagus: the scrawny bush that looks a bit like the domesticated asparagus ferns I used to hang in my kitchen. My eyes took awhile to adjust to the gloom, but they took even longer to see the slender stalks that grow out of the ground near the root of the bush.

wild-asparagus4Eventually I saw the first skinny green stalk and with a shout, snipped it off with my trusty asparagus tool. I was now faced with finding another three dozen stalks at least if there was going to be pasta with asparagus for dinner. It was almost impossible to see them, and then, eccolo! there was one and then another. I had gathered about half of what I needed when the sky opened up and it started to pour. I pulled up my hood and pressed on… When it’s time to hunt for asparagus, all thoughts of hairdos and fingernails go out the window.

There is a sense of peace and total relaxation that comes from being out in these woods. The fallen branches are shiny with rain, spring violets peep out from under winter detritus, and bright green moss creeps up tree trunks.

Eventually I have enough slender asparagus to make tonight’s dinner. There will be more asparagus and more pasta when the rain stops and the sun shines for more than five minutes. (This has been the wettest spring in centuries).

I will keep coming out here over the next few weeks. Hunting wild asparagus is addictive… just five more minutes, just one more peek at one more bush.

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Sharri Whiting

by Sharri Whiting

Sharri writes about food, wine and international travel from Umbria, where she and her husband grow olives. In addition to articles, she writes a blog,  UmbriaBella. Her app, Olive Oil IQ is a portable encyclopedia for foodies and culinary travelers (iTunes & Android). Follow her on Twitter: @umbriabella and @oliveoiliq. Facebook: www.facebook.com/UmbriaBella, and www.facebook.com/oliveoiliq

10 Responses to “Hunting Season: Wild Asparagus”

  1. Ann Waggoner

    I loved this note. It brings back the memory of living for the moment when one finds and eats seasonal goodies when they are at their moment of perfection.

    Reply
  2. Ah, memories of my uncle’s garden in suburban NY. He was a nut for fresh asparagus! (who isn’t?) I may have to make this recipe tonight, without the adventure of harvesting them myself. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
  3. Hi Sharri,
    I happen to be in Assisi for a few weeks, visiting my friend and cat lover Mara the gattara. Last week my stepdaughter, an avid forager, was visiting, and on our walk to Eremo delle Carceri, we saw a couple gathering something by the side of the road with a tool just like yours in the picture. They showed us a few stalks of “asparagi” and, on our way back, we looked and found a good handful. But these were a rich red-brown, a sort of chestnut brown, not as green as that in your picture. The folks we encountered said to eat them “freddo,” but when we checked with the woman at our return stop at Bar Baccanale, she said no, trim them and cook them. Anything to share about the color of ours, if different from yours, and the “freddo” advice?

    Reply
  4. Thea Reynolds

    Who knew there was an actual tool for harvesting asparagus. After a rainy day like that what better way to end than with a big bowl of pasta.

    Reply
  5. Anne Robichaud

    Enjoyed your note and read it – ironically! – when just back from our woods with a good bunch of asparagi selvatici..ready to make a frittata! It’s cold now..but at least no chance of meeting a viper when this cold, veto@!?

    Reply
  6. Sharri, Your enthusiasm shines through your note.You have made the woods and the thrill of the hunt come alive through your eyes, your voice and your pen…in your next note we would like to be invited to dinner,”pictures will suffice”.
    Great article…

    Reply
  7. This is a wonderful article – you made me feel as though I was there with you (Wish I was, as I love the Umbrian area)

    Thaank you for sharing your story AND photos!

    Reply
  8. This reminds me of the time my wife and I were living in a villa near Grutti in Umbria. One morning I was working near the woods and saw a local gentleman walking up a track plucking heads from a plant that looked very much like a popular indoor plant back in New Zealand, asparagus fern. I was curious so I watched him for a while as he collected his crop with his adept tool before approaching him to find out more. At the conclusion of our conversation, armed with new found knowledge I proceeded to scour the property for a share of this tasty morsel. That night, for the first time, we had fresh tasty asparagi with our meal.

    Reply
  9. Rosemary

    We did this in Sicily in the Ragusa area with our Sicilian friends and had a great time! They gave us the bounty and we made risotto with wild asparagus! Wonderful!

    Reply

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