The wild asparagus (Asparagus acutifolius)
The season of wild asparagus picking in Istria starts in early April.
There is hardly a house in Istria where at that time of the year the shoots of this extremely healthy and specific wild plant aren't being prepared for a tasty meal.
In Istria the wild asparagus is usually consumed mixed with eggs. Equally prepared asparagus can be combined with noodles or rice as well,which we highly recommend. Our folks at home are fond of the refreshing and delicious asparagus salad with hard-boiled eggs.
There are a lot of other recipes with asparagus of course: they fit together with fish and with meat, and once we tried an excellent sweet dessert in the form of a pudding with asparagus. Send us your original recipes that you use in preparing asparagus.
Young edible shoots of asparagus can be picked for about a month. For this reason most of Rovinj households make asparagus supplies for winter days. Wash the asparagus, divide them into pieces, boil for a few minutes, and store them in the freezer. Even the ancient Romans stored asparagus supplies in the Alps, and if necessary brought them to Rome.
Wild asparagus have a very strong, intense, bitter taste so there are people that don't like them. Most of us didn't when we were kids. On the other hand, the asparagus is an extremely healthy plant that contains vitamins A, C, B, C and E, folic acid, iron, copper, fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, zinc, magnesium and selenium. The amino acid asparagine is named after asparagus because asparagus is a plant rich in this ingredient. Asparagine and spargaurin accelerate recovery after illness, have a beneficial effect on the liver and gall bladder, have a diuretic effect and stimulate detoxification. In modern homeopathy the essence is used to treat inflammation of the bladder and kidney and urinary stones.
100 g of asparagus contain only 20 calories. When you add all those calories you lose while you are looking for asparagus, turns out that there is no better plant for your spring diet.
Asparagus is one of the oldest wild cultures in the Mediterranean and is prized as a delicacy for over 2000 years. In the old China it was used to treat dry cough and strengthen the lungs from 3000 years BC, and the ancient Egyptians used to put them in the tombs of the deceased. The Arabs on the other hand postulated that asparagus has an aphrodisiac effect.
In Istria there is a superstition that the first harvested raw asparagus should be eaten on the spot in order to protect the picker of a snake bite. The fact is that in asparagus season, various Istrian snakes start to come out from their hiding places looking for food and the sun. Most people are not comfortable encountering these creatures while walking and enjoying nature, but it does happen often. There is no reason to worry but you have to be on guard. If you decide to look for asparagus take with you a staff with which you will hit on the bushes before you venture into them with your hand for asparagus shoots. Of the seven species of snakes that live in Istria, only one is poisonous, and your best protection is caution, a stick, high shoes and long pants.
Local asparagus pickers, especially when the asparagus is not sufficient, complement the picked asparagus shoots with another wild plant, and that's Hook (lat. Dioscorea communis), called bljušt in Istria. Nutritional value or taste can not compete with asparagus, but they make an excellent match. Only the shoots are edible while tempting red berries are deadly poisonous.
If you go looking for asparagus you need to know that the unauthorized picking in state forests is prohibited and and is subject to penalties from 1000 to 7000 kuna (from 140 to 1000 Euro). For picking asparagus you must obtain the permit in the local forestry office before your trip. Harvested asparagus must then be brought to the local office of the Croatian Forests where you'll have to pay 50 lipas (7 cents) per asparagus.
If snakes and the prices of picked asparagus discouraged you, we recommend you to visit the Rovinj's green market where, in April, you will always find asparagus from the local retailers. Or you can order a dish with this typical Mediterranean wild plant in the next Rovinj restaurant that you visit.
Find out more
- Recipes: Scrambled eggs with wild asparagus