Wild About - Asparagus

Before I had a chance to complain about five straight days of rain and snow, Mother Nature made me hold my tongue by sending up the first spears of wild asparagus. For me, it's never really spring until I can gather fresh asparagus (or, as my Gran used to call it, asparagrus). Hunting for, and eating wild asparagus is such a long-standing and special tradition in my home, that I refuse to eat it store-bought, ever. So, if you are eating asparagus at my house, you know two things - it has been foraged, and it is springtime.

My father claims that asparagus needs thunder to grow, and that he can smell it (like a truffle pig) when it starts growing. And after foraging for asparagus with him my whole life, I don't have reason to doubt him on either account. The man has an uncanny ability to find the stuff, and taught me a few of his tricks.

The surest way to find wild asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is to know where it grew last year. Since it's a perennial vegetable, short of disaster, it will grow in the same location from year to year. Learn to recognise the fern-like yellow bush of the mature plant. If you can find the tell-tale plant of last year's asparagus, you will find new spears cropping up from the same spot. Try looking in grassy areas along fence lines and railroads. Old drainage ditches are also a good place to look. However, I know of several bunches that grow out in the middle of fields, so just keep your eyes peeled.

In the wild, asparagus can grow thick or thin. They are equally tasty (although I prefer the fattest ones). As long as the heads are still tightly closed when picked, the asparagus will be good to eat.

You can find a lot more great asparagus recipes in the Wild Things Round Up.




This post appears as a part of Real Food Wednesday, and Pennywise Platter Thursday. Click on the link, and join in on the fun. There are lots of tips and recipes from people who enjoy real, traditional foods.

Comments

  1. That is so awesome that you have asparagus growing wild on your property. I have been thinking of planting some myself. I love fresh, home, grown asparagus and roasting it like you do is my favorite way to eat it.

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  2. As a girl in Colorado, I remember walking the ditch bank looking for asparagus for dinner. It was so good.

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  3. My great-grandfather called it 'asparagrass'.

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  4. In another week or so, I'll be picking asparagrass every other day, and every blessed thing that I cook will have asparagus in it. I can't wait!

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  5. This post, especially the pictures, was really helpful to me. We recently moved to an area where there is a chance of wild asparagus growing. Since our asparagus can't even be picked until next year, we were hoping to find some to forage.

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  6. Ranee- Once you find your first bunch, it'll get easier. You might want to try googling 'mature asparagus' or something similar to see more pictures of fully grown asparagus plants. They are still the cue I most often use, even when looking for clusters I've harvested for years. Sometimes the fresh green spears are difficult to spot even when you are staring right at them.

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  7. I was JUST talking about asparagas today! Thanks!

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  8. Ha! I talk about asparagus and mushrooms almost constantly these days. For some strange reason, people think I'm obsessed. I don't get it ;)

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  9. How neat, I had no idea..

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  10. this is very helpful! I want to forage for food more, but I'm still learning. I wonder if wild asparagus is in florida? I'll have to look into it. thanks for the info!

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  11. that's cool, i really love asparaugs but it's so expensive! now i just need to find a place where they grow wild in london...

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  12. I have been so fascinated by your foraging. I love asparagus and would be thrilled to find a wild source. Is there some way to find out the areas it grows in? (we live just north of Atlanta, GA). Thanks so much for the info!

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  13. Elaine - I'm an old-fashioned kind of gal, and still love the library as a resource. If I were you, I'd go look for a guide book to wild edible plants in your region. If you have asparagus, it's sure to appear there :)

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  14. I used to pick asparagus growing up. Reading this makes me wish it were the right time of year to go out and look for some right now. Cruising through good food blogs is so dangerous!

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  15. I saw a chef eat wild asparagus from right next to the ocean in Denmark the other day. How cool to eat wild food.

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    Replies
    1. Rene Redzepi on Mind of a chef? I saw that, too! I was shouting with happiness.

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    2. Is it time to start looking yet?

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  16. I'm more than ready for wild asparagus to come up!

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  17. I keeping going out and looking for wild asparagus, but I'm not finding it. It's been a little dream of mine to find wild asparagus. Some people have strange goals, huh? LOL

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    1. I think it's a wonderful goal. As long as it is known to grow in your region, you are likely to find it eventually. And once you know how to recognize the pattern of what it looks like in the wild, you're set for life!

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  18. Replies
    1. Me either, and it's snowing again today.

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  19. I read about it from Gibbons as a kid, and have wanted to find it ever since.

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    1. I wonder how many people he inspired, not just to eat wild food, but specifically wild asparagus?

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  20. Want. Must. Have. Wild. Asparagus.

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    Replies
    1. I know the feeling. I wait all year for wild asparagus.

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  21. Thanks for the informative article!

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    Replies
    1. I hope it helps you find some asparagus :D

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  22. So cool! I finally did it! I've had this page bookmarked for so long, and today I found my old yellow bush, peeked between the grass, and found it, real wild asparagus!

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    1. That's fantastic! Congratulations!!!

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  23. Thank you for this post about wild asparagus. It has been so helpful to see the pictures and hear your stories. I can tell you are speaking from experience. I'm going to try again this year.

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    1. You are welcome. The trick is in finding your very first one. After that, you'll see that wild asparagus is identical to that sold in stores, and you'll be able to spot it all over.

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  24. I've started lookign for the wild asparagus near my house. If luck is on my side, I will find some and cook it up with butter. I'm pretty sure you would approve.

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    1. Oh yes, you know I do! The first stalk of the year must be eaten raw, right where you find it. The first batch must be cooked plain and served with butter. This is asparagus law.

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  25. This is a very helpful article. I've studied it for two years now, and will be looking for wild asparagus again this year. Eventually I'll find it, right?

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    1. If it's known to grown in your area, then yes, I'd think so. Good luck, Clive!

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  26. I have a question maybe you can help me with. We bought property last year that has a thick asparagus patch growing by the roadside. We're in SW Wisconsin, it's not quite coming up yet (I check every day). The stalks of last years plant are so dense that I worry they might barely be able to get through. Do you think it would be more helpful to remove the old stalks, or will new 'sparagus grow round them, no problem?

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    1. Growing things are a lot stronger than we might imagine. There are mushrooms that are known to push through asphalt, and I've seen some mushrooms push up rocks as they grow. I imagine your asparagus will grow just fine. However, since it is on your property, you might want to experiment. Cut down the old stalks on half the patch, and see if the asparagus grows better on that half. Then you'll know which way to go next year.

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    2. It is a good idea to dig up the crowns and separate them being very careful not to break them off They can be moved at any time of the year and will even do better than those which were not moved. I am in the process of moving some of mine and it may take me a good long time to do so but I hope it improves my produce int he mean time

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    3. Excellent idea. I've never had any luck moving them around, but I suspect that has something to do with the fact that it is so dry here.

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  27. I have a couple of patches of them and I have been eating them as fast as they come up. I never liked them as a kid as mom always cooked them from a can I hate slimy food, but when we took over this old farm there were some growing and I love them now! A bit of butter and garlic and Parmesan cheese is great heated in my cast iron skillet.

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    1. Ah, the magic of a cast iron skillet and a little garlic butter. Isn't it funny how we come to love so many of the foods, especially veggies, we hated as a kid. Really, though, canned asparagus? That's not fair.

      The wild asparagus here has only been up for a week, but it keeps getting frozen :( Hopefully, when it does get the signal to finally grow, it's going to be all wild asparagus all the time for a while. I hope I hope I hope.

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  28. Is it still growing?

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  29. I found my first wild asparagus this year thanks to this article. I appreciate the information.

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  30. Is it to late to find wild asparagus?

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  31. Solid article. Thanks.

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