Anyone who has grown their own vegetables will know how satisfying this activity can be. Well, I have recently discovered the next best thing… foraging!
I wonder if some of the satisfaction comes from an antique instinct that we still hold in our DNA. Whatever it is, it’s addictive!
My first wild asparagus (two shoots) I found while on a break while working in Calabria last year. But more recently, I wanted to try my luck close to home, on the foothills above the Ionian Coast of Sicily.
I am going to be completely honest; we did not just wander off randomly… a lovely local couple who have become friends indicated more or less where we should seek and search for wild asparagus. Apparently, they are more easily found where there have been fires (plenty of those around here last summer) and they are commonly found at the foot of certain trees.
With a rough indication of where and what, off we set.
In the first location we managed to find, once again two shoots. It was afternoon and I quickly realised that as the saying goes: the early bird catches the worm or in this case the asparagus; because when I managed to locate the asparagus bushes, they were sans shoots.
We moved to another spot and there I managed to find one more shoot however much to my joy there was an abundance of finocchietto selvatico – wild fennel!
While driving home with a bag full of fennel and my heart full of joy, I spotted a gentleman in a field with tow fists full of wild asparagus! Could it have been he who had passed before us? I will never know but I am determined to return to ‘his spot’ on my next round.
I have not had the courage to forage for other wild herbs as I still need to learn what to look for but, in the meantime, I have purchased these erbe spontane – spontaneous herbs from locals, whether that be at the green grocers or from a roadside sale, from the boot of an old Fiat Panda.
The herbs are rough and very laborious to clean but the flavour of these herbs is not quite like anything else, so it is always worth the effort.
Finocchietto and asparagus are my favourites but there is another that I enjoy the taste of just as much as I do its name – cosci i’vecchi – cosci vecchie or in English – old woman’s thighs.
Happy foraging folks!