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Wild Asparagus

05.14.12

I’ve been looking forward to this for 9 months. Last August, while looking for mushrooms and saskatoons, I came across a patch of wild asparagus and since have been dreaming of a spring feed of asparagus I didn’t have to grow myself. That day has come. It’s worth noting that I am doubtful this is a native species of any kind, but is more than likely better described as a ‘feral’ asparagus. Some remanent of an old market garden or homestead in the river valley, or seeded by a bird. Or something. I don’t care. It’s giant, awesome, free, tasty asparagus.

The top left photo was today’s score. I’ve never harvested asparagus this thick. Ever. And my dad’s patch is about 20 years old – it’s got nothing on this. The thick ones are as broad as my thumb. Because they’re so giant, they add up fast. I only have a dozen or so, but I think 3 would exceed a normal portion of asparagus. The photo below is what they looked like May 3rd, taken on a forage I led for a crew of crazy-cool Slow Food Canada and Slow Food International folks. It was the first I saw them, so it wasn’t hard to get excited about it. That, and the vast majority of what we harvested was white, the soil around it being loose, and easy to dig down a bit to harvest it while entirely blanched. We ate them shaved and whole, raw, atop fresh eggs scrambled in beurre noisette and wild onion. I am looking forward to a pig out of today’s yield – I’ve been abstaining since last season.

No, I will not tell you where this patch is. But I can tell you that there are other patches around the river valley, and legend is they are even more prolific.

11 Responses

  1. Greg says:

    Yeah! We just had some feral (haha) asparagus this evening. There are some good trappers in the area.

  2. Chair says:

    Hm. It makes sense, but I didn’t realize that the older the plant, the broader the shoots. We inherited a patch when we bought our current home in Red Deer and I get some real fatties each spring, I’m not exaggerating when I say they are close to 1 inch diameter, so they must be ancient.

    I’ve been snacking on a few each morning while I work on other garden adventures and am ever in awe of how truly incredible FRESH FRESH asparagus is. Sweet like an apple, crisp and crunchy and juicy and almost none of that almost rank-ish ‘asparagus flavour’.

    I plan to move the patch this year, it’s grown itself into a corner and I want to put other things in that spot (plus I think it’d be happier in a spot where it’ll have room to stretch its legs). I’m terrified of what the root system is going to look like, I’m sure it’s massive.

  3. Judy Z says:

    If these really grew from seed spread by birds, I’m thinking I should pick up some asparagus seeds and start planting them out at my acreage. I have ditches on three sides of my acreage (the rest is mostly trees). I keep thinking there could be so much produce out of those ditches. The only worry would be if someone (like the county) decided to spray to kill shrubs or something.

  4. Andrew Turner says:

    Check the sides of railroad tracks, too. There’s asparagus everywhere in Alberta. East facing produces earlier in the season.

  5. Evelyn says:

    I saw some in the river valley today too, but I wasn’t able to climb down to them. There were impressive in size as well.

  6. Deb Krause says:

    In my family we never had asparagus unless it was in season as well… which makes the first taste the BEST of the whole year! lol
    I harvested the 3rd “batch/picking” of asparagus from my mom’s garden today. Londyn and I had them pan sauteed with butter, a bit of lemon and a pinch of salt. Did a simple french-style omelette with goat cheese and that was lunch!

  7. becky3086 says:

    Wow, I wish we had feral asparagus here. It does make me think about how we grow them and how they must be grown in the wild…very interesting. I never actually ate any asparagus until I was grown and married.

  8. Monica I. says:

    I wouldn’t recommend foraging along railroad tracks… ever wonder why the tracks have such a wide area that they don’t have to mow?

    Nice haul Kevin!

  9. There are some major patches in the valley and they are way ahead of the patch in my garden. Foraging is a lot of fun with the kids. My daughter even ate the asparagus we hustled up out of the valley!

  10. ashley says:

    We’ve been harvesting like mad down here too. We do run into a fair number of fat stalks and we chalk this up to them being an old plant- they are usually well established and have lots of shoots. I know they aren’t feral, but in fact wild.

  11. Tiia Yvette says:

    I remember my paternal grandfather and my grandfather’s patch having white stemmed asparagus coming out of the ground (until they were over 6-8 inches tall… and they had a bit of a different taste. Yummy

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