With the spring blossom comes the promise of almonds, cherries and other soft fruits later in the year, and the increasing warmth turns our minds to planting seeds and seedlings for the feast of tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in summer. Our anticipation is rewarded by the sight of our first foraging opportunities – wild asparagus. It can be hard to find. A spikey, fondy plant grows usually sheltered by a wall or a tree trunk and the asparagus shoots appear – somewhere within the vicinity. The thin, wavey shoot can easily elude you, but once you get your eye in they are fun to find. Simply feel down the long shoot to the point where it stops being flexible, and snap it off. You’ll sometimes find three or four stalks together, but not often more, so the hunt for the next plant continues.
As well as learning how to spot the wild asparagus, you have to be quick. The Italian’s “right to roam” means that your neighbours are free to wander your land and do their own foraging. I don’t think that they believe me that I want to pick them too! Let alone that I might know what to do with them.
The wild asparagus does lack the crunch of the cultivated variety. But it more than makes up for it in flavour. The straw-thin stems are fully robust when it comes to taste. Serve wilted with your spaghetti, or use in a thin frittata (omelette), or lay on top of pastry with some cheese for a quick savoury tart – or simply char on the grill and enjoy, with a glass of chilled white after all that hunting!