Foraging restrictions vary on public lands, and on private property, you must get the owner’s permission. Wild asparagus, which is cultivated asparagus that has escaped, grows in sunny areas where the soil is sandy but moist. It likes “edgy” areas–alongside ditches, fields, fences–and is recognizable by the feathery yellow-green foliage. Search near the base of the ferns and if you see green spears poking through the ground, you’ve got it made. Reference a reputable field guide book, preferably one that’s specific to your region, or apprentice with an experienced hunter.
Cut asparagus at or just below ground level and take only the spears with tightly closed tips–if they’ve splayed open, they’ve begun to flower and toughen. Pick only a portion of what you find, to allow the plants to replenish themselves for next year.
“Asparagus is a fat-free, low-sodium vegetable that provides lots of nutrients and only three calories per spear.
Nutrients found in asparagus include:
- Folate – reduces risk of heart disease, dementia and neural tube defects
- Vitamins A & C – reduces risk of heart disease and certain cancers, and protects eye and skin health
- Vitamin K – essential for bone formation and blood clotting
- Potassium – maintains healthy blood pressure
- Rutin – strengthens capillary walls
- Inulin – a food source for the good bacteria in large intestine
Asparagus is known as a natural remedy that can help relieve indigestion and act as a mild laxative and sedative.
Despite all of the benefits, there are a few downsides to eating asparagus. The vegetable is high in purine, which increases the risk of gout and kidney stones, and high in sulfur, which can alter the smell of urine. In addition, inulin, while a good food source for intestinal bacteria, also produces intestinal gas.
There are a few type of asparagus and they’re all a little bit different. White asparagus comes from the same plant as green, but it’s grown out of the sun, so it doesn’t develop chlorophyll, which makes it lower in nutrients. Purple asparagus is sweeter and its color is created by health-promoting antioxidants properties.
Picking & Storing
When choosing asparagus, pick crisp, round spears with tips that are pointed and tightly closed. Try to select spears similar in diameter for uniform cooking time. Store asparagus in a dark part of the refrigerator, wrapped in a moist paper towel. You may also cut off on one inch from the end and place upright in one inch of water. Use cut asparagus within two to three days. If the tips become wilted, freshen with a brief soak in cold water.
Prepare by cleaning under cool, running water. If the tips have sand or dirt in them, dunk the tips in and out of water, then rinse well. Trim off any tough or white ends. Cook quickly until asparagus is tender and crisp. Steaming and microwaving are better cooking methods than boiling, and asparagus can also be stir-fried, roasted, broiled or grilled.”
Asparagus can be sauced with any number of easy combinations: garlic and soy sauce, olive oil and vinegar, lemon juice and butter, mustard and mayonnaise. In addition, add asparagus to soups, sautés, risotto, savory tarts, salads, casseroles…and on and on.
Finally, whether you gather, grow, or purchase the wild foods of spring, get them now, for all too soon, they’ll be gone.
- Missouri Families, missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles/nut131.htm