As the weather begins to warm up the first fruits of spring literally ‘spring’ up from new foliage on the trees, to the wild berries and vegetables.
My favourite has to be wild asparagus which grows randomly and abundantly throughout Italy and its surrounding islands.
Wild asparagus shoot up between thorny blackberry plants, in cool damp gullies or secluded places where they are hidden and keep themselves tender and ripe for those who search for them every year.
There are two types of asparagus, a slim, tall, sweet variety widely dispersed in every area and then a short, dark, slightly spindly and bitter asparagus which grows later on in the season. The sweeter variety of asparagus is the most sought after variety, the bitter type is an acquired taste.
Asparagus tends to nestle in amongst the fresh growth of spring, their spears sprout up high, poking out between bushes in fertile gullies, which makes them easier to find than evasive porcini mushrooms.
The hunt for asparagus is a war. Often it’s a race to get to the best spots first and it can be quite vicious. Like mushrooms, asparagus are a sought after vegetable and they bring out the competitive nature in people.
The asparagus hunter has an intense satisfaction and can relish the preparation of this sweet vegetable which can be cleaned and fried with olive oil to make an omelette, or wrapped in thinly sliced cheese and prosciutto cotto ham to be lightly oven baked.
Personally when I see a batch of freshly picked asparagus I always feel like a quiche is coming on. Dishes like these are an elixir to the wintertime, like the warmth of spring they assure me the cold is coming to an end.