One of the best signs of spring in Dalmatia and Istria area is the wild asparagus on the menus of local restaurants. You can also see bunch of people standing by the main road (especially in Biograd area) selling fresh, wild asparagus just picked from the nearby forests.
The wild asparagus is a well known delicacy but most people think it grows mainly in Istria although we in Dalmatia pick it earlier then them. The season is sometimes from mid March to mid April and the asparagus can be found on markets during that period.
Asparagus grows in the fields and forests and prefers bushes although I have found some (up to 1 meter high!!!) in the grass. The asparagus, or šparoge, is always found next to the small bushes with needle-like “leaves” which are actually old plants of asparagus.
Picking asparagus in the wild is a great exercise after a long winter! But not everyone is awake yet :)))
Many animals are just out from their winter hideouts and not all are nice and sweet like the tortoises!
Snakes are just waking up but in the woods, where we hunt for asparagus, we mainly see blavor or European Legless Lizard (Ophisaurus apodus). This is a large glass lizard found from southern Europe to Central Asia and quite common in Croatia!
Asparagus has been used from the earliest times as a vegetable and medicine. It is known for delicate flavor and diuretic properties. Some people even eat it raw! We, in Croatia, are mostly oriented to this wild asparagus and don’t think much of the farm grown asparagus which is much milder in taste.
The most common way to enjoy the asparagus is to cook it and serve it with hard boiled eggs (a touch of vinegar and lots of olive oil is the way to enhance the taste). Istria is known for fritaja or fritata way of preparing the asparagus.
So, for the authentic taste of dalmatian Spring, just serve a plate of tender asparagus that simply melt in your mouth!