Cars are parked along the road leading to our Istrian village, and asparagus pickers move slowly between low trees and bushes. Here and there you will see someone with a bunch of asparagus in their hands. The trophy is usually pressed into a hot palm to dangle the asparagus heads. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. The bouquet is quickly refreshed in a glass or bucket of cold water and placed upright.
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to gather wild food. The main motive is to diversify the menu, the passion for picking, or maybe we are driven by an old force, when we humans also survived on what we found in nature. Wild plants are not just food that fills a plate, their healing properties are much more important. Asparagus, sage, nettle, dandelion are spring healers. All of them can be attributed to the fact that they contain substances that have a cleansing and invigorating effect. The bear already knows why he is rushing to the spring.
In addition to the wild delicacies that are known, there are many other things in nature that (no longer) we know so well. I deeply regret being ignorant in this area and never having learned from an excellent connoisseur of wild food Daria Cortesejaalthough I’ve always had that in mind. It’s not enough to think, you also have to do, ah, eternal embarrassment, so I was delighted with the delicacy I came across this spring. I saw a box full of unusual vegetables in a store on the coast. The long green shoots were reminiscent of late asparagus. I know so many of them that I knew they weren’t asparagus, so I was all the more surprised that they presented them as sea asparagus. Well, Saltines, it was a patient seller. It was my ears themselves. She smiled broadly and explained to me, both in the Primorska region, half really, half jokingly, what it was all about. They are sea asparagus that grow on the shore with their feet in the sand, where they are strengthened by the sea, so that the green stems of the boots push them upwards. I asked her to weigh me as many of these asparagus for two people to try for dinner, and with a mixture of curiosity and ignorance, I tackled the recipe. Of course, the saleswoman didn’t help me with the recipe, when you’re used to certain vegetables, you tell yourself that the preparation goes without saying. Yeah, cook them and eat them, haha. Luckily we have the Internet. There I came across an article by Dario Cortese that explained everything.
About fifteen species of saltworks grow on our coast, plants that feed on the sea and the sun. Sea asparagus or common asparagus or sburion is among the most popular of them. Salt workers were familiar with the plant, as most of them grow in salt marshes. Green sprouts were prepared with potatoes, which were cooked and blanched on a salad, and later mugwort was put in stronger vinegar with a little garlic. Edible are the young shoots that you tear from the stem. If you go to the coast to recharge your batteries and walk along the empty sandy beaches, you might find it. What is a weed today was once edible, and there are many such plants. I wouldn’t mean to be boring, however, it can be helpful to learn what is edible in nature. Just in case it’s useful.
Potato dish with wild sprouts
For two people.
- 100 g common asparagus or wild asparagus
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 300g potatoes
- the juice of half a lemon
- salt and pepper
- spring onions
- fresh dill (on top)
1. Choose smaller potatoes of about the same thickness. Scrape it and bake. Peel a squash, grate it and cut it into thick slices. Only break off young, non-woody shoots. Finely chop the dill. Cut the onion into rings.
2. Fry the sprouts in a pan on the oil. Season with salt and pepper, when softened, add lemon juice. Note that the natural ax is quite salty. Push the sprouts to one side of the pan, sauté the potatoes on the other side to brown them a little.
3. Add spring onions and stir.
4. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle with dill and set aside.