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Wild asparagus, in essence, differentiates itself from cultivated asparagus in several ways, yet remains true to form to the asparagus species. Cultivated asparagus left to flower and go to seed has the same appearance as wild asparagus. Its plant structure produces lacy feathery fern-like foliage from its central stalk in the same manner as wild asparagus. Asparagus are perennials, producing edible crops year after year. Wild asparagus is no different. Rather, it simply produces without agricultural assistance or manipulation. Nature commands its seasonal production and decline. It sprouts in the early spring, creating thin edible pistachio-toned stalks with coniferous spear-like tips. The spears are snappy and crisp in texture. Their flavors are earthy, grassy and nutty, reminiscent of the terrain in which they are surrounded. Aromas are subtly woodsy and balsam yet more overt than their domesticated counterpart.
Wild asparagus is best harvested during late spring.
Wild asparagus, botanical name Asparagus officinalis, is an obscure perennial and member of the Liliaceae family. It is one of several yet considerably few plant species that grows outside of cultivation, yet foraged commercially for human consumption. They are known as edible wild plants and have created an international culinary desire and anticipation that trumps expectations of the predictable nature of cultivated species and seasons.
All asparagus spears, cultivated and wild, should be snapped at their natural breaking or bending point. Any stem below that point is generally too fibrous for palatable consumption. Wild asparagus is best showcased raw or briefly cooked. it can be sauteed, steamed, boiled, baked and fried. Spring ingredients such as morel mushrooms, green garlic, wild ramps, fennel, leeks, young lettuces and citruses are most suitable pairings. Other complimentary ingredients include aged nutty cheeses such as pecorino and parmesan, bacon, proscuitto, cream, eggs, butter, shallots, herbs such as thyme, basil and chervil, yeasty breads like sourdough and wheat and grains such as aborio rice, quinoa and farro.
Wild asparagus grows elusively in nature. Its inherent habitats include dangerously inaccessible sea slopes, reservoir banks and wooded areas which makes it difficult to see amongst other vegetation. Thus, research suggests many populations are underreported, even unknown. Other more accessible habitats include rural roadsides and ditches, parks, fence lines and field borders. Wild asparagus grows from a cluster of underground rhizomes that can yield harvests for over 30 years. Plants are insect pollinated and seeds are spread by birds, allowing for continuous future populations and domesticated crops easily escaping into wild domain. Wild asparagus thrives in North America and Western Europe.
Recipes that include Wild Asparagus. One is easiest, three is harder.
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