My husband’s favorite month of the year
In Italy, March is when the weather gets warmer, the days get longer and the wild asparagus appears in the olive groves.
He’ll spend an hour around mid-day from the end of March all through April foraging for asparagus.
When is Wild Asparagus in Season?
Here in Umbria, the wild asparagus grows all over from late March through to the end of May.
But April is the best month in Central Italy to enjoy wild asparagus.
You can find them growing on the side of the road, in olive groves and even in the oak forests.
oraging for Asparagus
Wild asparagus starts to appear at the end of March. Once we’ve had a few warm sunny days we’ll take an extra 30 minutes off right before lunch and visit abandoned olive groves to forage for asparagus.
We walk between the olive trees, looking for the long thin asparagus sprouting in the underbrush.
I can’t imagine another form of meditation more productive.
But just be careful. With the wild asparagus comes the vipers, poisonous snakes. They start to come out and warm themselves on the rocks, so wear heavy shoes, don’t sit down on rock walls, and stay attentive.
We bring back our treasure and if we don’t have time to cook them it’s just a matter of sticking them in a tall glass full of water so they stay fresh.
Where to Buy Wild Asparagus
An easy way to find local wild asparagus is at organic markets.
In Perugia, there’s one on Thursday mornings at the bottom of the mini metro, close to the soccer stadium.
Look for buckets with some water and bundles of long thin asparagus.
No access to a kitchen?
Most restaurants will start serving asparagi as soon as it’s in season. It can be with pasta or in a risotto. Or they might be serving them in a frittata.
Things to Know About Wild Asparagus
Don’t expect the wild asparagus growing in central Italy to taste like the thicker French versions. All but the tops are tough and it needs to be cooking much longer.
But they’re just as healthy. They contain lots of vitamin A and C, and minerals like potassium, calcium, and iron.
But like any asparagus, it’s a good diuretic and can change the odour of your urine.
Cooking With Wild Asparagus
If you want to cook wild asparagus, you need to know a few things first. You can’t treat them in the same way as the asparagus you buy at the store.
Don’t bother cooking the whole length of the asparagus.
Break each asparagus into 1 cm long bits and when it stops breaking easily throw the rest into the compost. If the plant is a little older or thinner, they get woody by the middle and aren’t easy to eat.
I cook them in a small saucepan with some oil, a halved piece of garlic, a pinch of salt and cover the broken pieces of asparagus with water.
Let them boil away to soften them.
Just add them as is to pasta, eggs, or you can make it fancier with a carbonara sauce. Substituting the asparagus for the pancetta.
While the asparagus is cooking start the water boiling for pasta or get the eggs ready for a frittata.
Is There A Better Reason To Visit Italy in March?
Spring is such a great time of year, even early spring when the nights are still chilly.
Eating asparagus in season is surely a highlight of early spring.
But the getting out and enjoying the warm sun, the wandering of the olive groves and taking pictures of those gnarly trees isn’t far away.
What better way to celebrate the change of season then to get out and eat seasonal vegetables?