The hunt for wild asparagus

If there’s one thing that Catalans love more than planning independence from Spain for 2014, bitching about their own “autonomous region” government, checking to make sure they’ve been billed properly, and hunting for mushrooms, then it’s hunting for wild asparagus or “espàrrecs de marge”.

Up to a week after a rainstorm in the Spring, you will see people out, eyes to the ground and usually a brace of skinny asparagus spears in one hand. The more well-prepared put them in a basket, or at the very least, a cone of newspaper. For anyone who sees these for the first time, they might ask, “Why are wild asparagus so skinny?” It’s not that they’re skinny, but that they get picked prior to growing to the 1cm diameter we’re used to in the stores. Fatter spears can be found, but they are most assuredly rare.

The key to finding wild asparagus is that they tend to like areas out of the direct sun, with a bit of an inclination to them, and preferably forested. Given that they’ll generally look like a small twig, they’re easy to miss and one needs to keep a sharp eye.

As to the flavor? Naturally, they’re more rich than what you find in a supermarket–isn’t everything? That, the price of free, and the general tradition keeps Catalans of all walks of life out, with their eyes to the ground in March and April, hunting for these wayward spears.

3 Replies to “The hunt for wild asparagus”

  1. We have wild asparagus in Sardinia too, but they are naturally skinnier than the fat ones you can find in supermarkets, not because they are picked early, maybe because they are not rich in hormones ;)

  2. Probably less to do with hormones and more to do with over-watering. Wild always seems to equal smaller and tastier.

  3. Wild asparagus are skinnier then commercial / cultivated asparagus not because they are picked early, or due to lack of water, but because it is a different species. Wild asparagus is Asparagus prostratus while commercial asparagus is A. officinalis.

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