The wild asparagus they are often used in cooking for their organoleptic virtues and their incomparable flavor for the preparation of risottos, omelettes, soups, main dishes. Their flavor is stronger than that of cultivated asparagus and is therefore very popular. Let’s discover how to recognize them, when and how to harvest them, how to store them in the short and long term and of course some recipes to make the most of them.
How to recognize the wild asparagus plant
In addition to varieties of asparagus Cultivated invegetable garden (Asparagus officinale) that are usually found in shops, there are 220 spontaneous native species that grow in the Mediterranean basin.
The best known is theprickly asparagus (Asparagus acutifolius), a spontaneous edible herb widespread throughout Italy. But you also eat bitter asparagus (Asaparago maritimo), although rarer.
In addition, you have to be careful because with the same name of ‘wild asparagus’ they are also called butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus), which is actually an evergreen plant with red berries and spiny leaves. And the plant of jumpamong climbers because it clings to any support, and whose spring shoots are also used in cooking.
On the other hand, the so-called ‘sea asparagus’ have nothing to do with it, which are none other than there glasswortan edible seaweed present on the shores of French, Spanish and Italian beaches.
Wild asparagus, also called asparagine, is edible and has a distinctly bitter taste. It has an underground rhizome and an aerial part.
It is the young shoots that are used in cooking. In botany they are called shoots, and they come straight out of the ground, from the rhizome. Finer than cultivated varieties, specially selected for their fleshy stem.
The plant has gray stems and branches, which can reach up to 1 m, and are covered in pointed, star-shaped cladodes (leaf-like branches) which are the part of the plant where photosynthesis takes place .
And it is widespread in the woods, in the shade of large trees, but also in the countryside, often under olive trees, because it likes the shade. It should not be confused with the shoots of the butcher’s broom, which are green but tend to purplish.
In addition, having a period of vegetative rest, the shoot falls off if it is not harvested, and the rhizome remains, which regrows in the spring. The plants are therefore always in the same places, from one year to the next.
The properties of wild asparagus
Like cultivated varieties, spontaneous asparagus also has many beneficial properties, even more accentuated due to its spontaneity. Its main properties are:
The nutritional values of wild asparagus
In 100 grams of this wild vegetable there are only 25 Kcal, in fact they are often recommended in a low calorie diet, and 90% is water. They also contain:
- vitamins of groups A, B1 and K
- folic acid
Types of wild asparagus
Even among the savages there are several varieties.
- Spiny aspargo. The most widespread spontaneous asparagus (Asparagus acutifolius), present in various regions of Italy, from north to south. There are other wild varieties of asparagus very rare.
- Thin leaf asparagus. L’Asparagus tenuifolius it grows spontaneously in parts of northern Italy and eastern France. It has its sweet taste, its soft and very fine leaves and its red fruits.
- White asparagus. It’s not the white one finds on the vegetable counters, it’s the variety of white asparagus with large thorny and whitish stems, with black fruits, which are found a lot in Sardinia and Corsica.
Consider the cultivated variety to be theAsparagus officinalis, characterized by fleshier shoots (stems). Many may remember that there are different colors, but these are not different varieties, but rather pre-harvest sun exposure and how they are grown.
Asparagus is actually the young shoot of the plant that extends underground. The tuft that emerges from the rhizome seeks light and as soon as it emerges from the ground it begins to green thanks to the photosynthesis of chlorophyll.
- White asparagus they are collected as soon as they show the tip. They have a fine and delicate flavor.
- purple asparagus they are harvested when they have grown a few centimeters. Having been exposed to the sun, they have a more fruity flavor.
- green asparagus they are picked up when they are about 15 cm long. It has a strong flavor.
What does wild asparagus taste like
They have a distinctly bitter taste and that is why they are often combined with foods that enhance this characteristic. They go well with eggs.
How to Harvest Wild Asparagus
For harvesting, sturdy gloves are essential, as the plant has many thorns.
Once identified, the foliage must be gently moved, carefully observing the base from which the prized asparagus grows and gently breaking it off.
What is the season for wild asparagus
The harvest period is from spring to early summer, knowing that in the south they germinate earlier than in the north.
They usually start to appear in March-April, but depending on the weather, they can be delayed. Care must be taken to harvest them before they grow too far and become quite bitter.
How to Clean Wild Asparagus
They must be thoroughly cleaned of earthy residues, washing them under a light stream of cold water. They dry and prune with a knife, removing the hardest part of the stalk.
How to cook wild asparagus
They lend themselves to different types of cooking, from classic boiling to steaming, including casserole and oven. Let’s discover the main ones.
- Boiled. The most classic cooking should not be excessively prolonged to keep the organoleptic qualities intact. After cleaning them and trimming the stems, place them in the basket of a tall, narrow pot filled with water, taking care not to cover the tips. Bring to a boil and after a few minutes they will be cooked, when the stalks are slightly soft to the touch.
- Steamed wild asparagus. Steaming is recommended and can be done in a pan with a special basket. Place the asparagus in the latter without overlapping them, bring the water to a light boil, close with the lid and cook until the desired consistency.
- Baked wild asparagus. A tasty alternative is cooking in the oven: in this case, place the asparagus on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, season with a little oil and cook for about twenty minutes at 170°.
- Wild asparagus in a pan. After blanching them, cook the wild asparagus in a pan with a little butter, adding salt and pepper of your choice. Excellent on its own but also with other vegetables.
How to Store Wild Asparagus
They can be stored for 1-2 days in their natural state, but if you want them to last longer, it is necessary to adopt a proper storage method, such as storing them in oil or bittersweet. But also by freezing them.
- In oil. After depriving them of the hard part, immerse them in water and vinegar, bring to the boil and leave to cook for ten minutes. In the meantime, it will be necessary to sterilize the glass jars well and insert them, once cold, inside. Add extra virgin olive oil to cover them all. Close the jars with the lid.
- Frozen. To keep them for a long time, just wash them and, after removing the hard part, cut them into small pieces. Put them in a saucepan, adding a few tablespoons of olive oil, a little water and salt. Before they are completely cooked, let them cool and arrange them in jars, closing them with cling film and a rubber band. Plastic jars can be stored in the freezer and used as needed.
- Bittersweet. You can blanch the tips for a few minutes in very hot water, then put them in a sterilized glass jar, cover with a solution of boiling water, wine and vinegar in equal parts, closing tightly for the vacuum cooking.
Recipes with wild asparagus
There are many recipes that consider them protagonists, from omelettes to salads, from risottos to pasta, but also main dishes with an intense flavor. Here are a few:
- Asparagus and leek pasta
- Asparagus and eggs
wild asparagus omelet recipe
For this recipe you will need:
- 1 large bunch of wild asparagus
- 4 Egg
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Preparation. Cook them for a few minutes in water, after having washed them and trimmed the stems, then drain them well, letting them drain all the water they contain for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Pour the asparagus in the beaten egg and cook in a large, lightly greased frying pan, cover with the lid and after 4 minutes turn the omelet using the lid. Cook for another 2 minutes and serve hot.
Wild asparagus how to remove bitterness
To remove the bitterness, you can mix them in a saucepan with a little beer. The latter indeed deprives them, at least a little of the bitter taste.
Contraindications of asparagus
It is better to avoid consumption in case of:
- urinary tract inflammation
- kidney disorders
What are wild asparagus used for?
This variety of asparagus has many beneficial properties: they are diuretic, they help detoxify the body and purify it, but also increase blood fluidity.
Because wild asparagus cannot be harvested
They can be collected by respecting the regulations established by each region. Indeed, there may be limits regarding the quantities and the collection period. The same applies to protected areas, where it is essential to comply with the provisions in force. So before going in search of asparagus, it is better to find out.
What are poisonous wild asparagus
True wild asparagus, i.e. Asparagus acutifolius L., it’s not toxic. Other parts of asparagine, the original plant, should not be consumed.
What is the season for wild asparagus
They can usually be harvested from early spring to early summer, although they grow earlier in warmer regions than in cooler ones.
How much does a kg of wild asparagus cost?
They are invaluable if you collect them yourself, but if you buy them, the cost depends on the region and the vendor. For 1 kg of product you can go from about 12 euros to twenty.
Wild asparagus regulations
The picking of spontaneous varieties of asparagus in certain regions is regulated to prevent, as in the case of mushrooms, this spontaneous plant gradually disappearing.
However, the regulations vary from region to region and concern both the period and the quantity. So before picking them up, check with your municipality of residence.
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