Welcoming Wild Asparagus Season

asparagus1In an era when most urban Americans were suspicious of food that wasn’t boxed, bagged or canned, Euell Gibbons made a landmark case for plucking meals from the landscape. Stalking the Wild Asparagus, published in 1962, was the first major foraging manifesto.

But the title, pun value aside, is slightly misleading. It doesn’t take much stealth to gather wild asparagus. At this time of year, the skinny green plants are just as likely to come find you.

“It seems like they’re everywhere,” says chef Frank Lee, who last month put his backyard haul on the menu at Old Village Post House. It took Lee about 20 minutes to collect a half-pound of the seasonal delicacy.

asp2Wild asparagus thrives in moist sandy soil, and – like cultivated asparagus – is best enjoyed when it’s still lithe and limber. Although wild asparagus is considerably smaller than its domesticated cousin, it has the same earthy, spring flavor.

“You can see how greeny and delicious it is,” says Lee, who’s also been preparing wild asparagus at home. “It doesn’t need much.”

Lee recommends blanching the asparagus, then lightly dressing it with lemon juice and olive oil.

Other local chefs, including Jason Stanhope and Sean Brock, have served wild asparagus, but it doesn’t take a restaurant trip to locate the plant. As Gibbons would no doubt say, get stalking.

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