Hunting for wild asparagus is one of our favorite spring activities as it is our favorite local delicacy. It is most often foraged between March and May. We have found some in June and later or even in the Fall if the weather is favorable.
How to Find Wild Asparagus
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) grows in partially sunny places so olive groves and orchards are ideal to look for them. Other habitats include roadsides and ditches, parks, fence lines and field borders.
Hunting for wild asparagus is quite easy but requires a bit of training and adjusting.
The instructions on how to find them are usually very short: scan the ground for the prickly bushes and look for stalks of asparagus emerging in its vicinity.
The asparagus is a characteristic plant of the Mediterranean coastline. It is very popular on the Dalmatian coast and Istria where it is also served in the local taverns and restaurants.
Wild asparagus reaches on average 30–70 centimetres of height. About 300 species of asparagus are known, but only about 20 edible ones. In Croatia, four are found and only one is edible and not protected. Wild asparagus are thinner than the cultivated asparagus, however they are much tastier.
Hippocrates, the ancient Greek doctor, used asparagus to treat diarrhea and urethra pain. Asparagus contains asparagines which is known for its diuretic properties and makes our urin smell funny after eating asparagus. The Romans appreciated the plant’s gastronomic qualities and it was also regarded as an aphrodisiac.
In the 16th century, asparagus was served in the royal courts of Europe and in the 17th century it was cultivated in France for Louis XIV. Apparently, the king loved them quite a bit. But, only in the 18th century asparagus started getting recognition.
Cooking Wild Asparagus
Wild asparagus is rich in potassium calcium, fiber and vitamin C. It is a good source of magnesium, iron, phosphorus and B-complex vitamins. It is also very low on calories.
Before cooking, remove hardened parts.
Asparagus has a short shelf life. Immersing the freshly picked plants in cold water will help them but not for too long. Alternatively, wrap them in a moist cloth or paper towel and place them in the vegetable section of the refrigerator.