Sunday, May 28, 2006

Wild thing or aspirational asparagus for Weekend Herb Blogging

Aah, the markets in Paris! Last Sunday morning we wandered at the noisy and buzzing Richard Lenoir Market near Bastille and were admiring the endless long rows of stalls selling skinned rabbits, huge fish and various cuts of meat, neatly piled luscious fruit and veg, and more fresh herbs you'd be able to learn the names of. This being early May, the market had also plenty of asparagus in all shape and form - white (some very fat white ones at that!), green and wild. Whereas I've been roasting green asparagus in my kitchen just recently, and have eaten white asparagus on several occasions, the wild - asperge sauvage in French - was new to me. So in addition to a large bunch of fresh bay leaves, I also got two bunches of wild asparagus to take back to Edinburgh.

Apparently wild asparagus is endemic to coastal areas of Western Europe, especially Belgium, Britain (found mainly in Dorset, Cornwall, Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire), the Channel Islands, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands. Although it has been previously thought of as a sub-species (Asparagus officinalis ssp. prostratus) to garden asparagus (Asparagus officinalis ssp. officinalis), then recent research seems to suggest that it's a separate species altogether and has been granted a Latin name of its own - Asparagus prostratus. The 'prostratus' in the name implies that wild asparagus stems grow prostrately - the Dutch call the plant 'liggende asperge', for instance. The taste is definitely like a delicate version of green asparagus - very pleasant and light. Here are my two dishes using this new-found gem of a vegetable.

Wild Asparagus at its simplest
(Metsik spargel, lihtsalt või ja meresoolaga)

This 'dish' is inspired by David Lebovitz's post about Paris Organics. The vendor told me (well, my date K. actually, as sadly I speak no French) to boil the asparagus for 5 minutes. David steams his, but I followed his instructions about serving the asparagus - simply dotted with butter and seasoned with Maldon sea salt flakes. Delicious!!! (Very good, if somewhat messy, fingerfood:)

Wild Asparagus with pasta and garlic
(Makaronid metsiku spargli ja kreemja küüslaugukastmega)

Take enough pasta of your choice (I used boccoletti, but might use spaghetti next time) - boil in a generous amount of salted water until al dente.

Meanwhile, blanch wild asparagus in salted boiling water for one minute, then drain thoroughly and cut into shorter pieces (or leave whole if using spaghetti).
Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a frying pan and add some finely sliced garlic. Fry gently for a minute, without letting the garlic to brown.
Add the wild asparagus and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Add some cream (single/whipping/double - whatever you prefer) and heat through. Remember you're aiming for just a light coating of creamy sauce for your pasta, so use less cream than you think you need!
Season with black pepper.

When your pasta is cooked, drain it and throw into your sauce. Stir to combine and serve with some parmesan cheese.

Tagged with (hosted by Kevin of Seriously Good - read his round-up here) and (this time hosted by Ilva of Lucullian Delights - read her round-up here)

UPDATE 6.2.2007: just spotted this post on wild asparagus over at Hungry in Hogtown.


Anonymous said...

Is it real? Wild Asparagus? I can't belive it is eatable.

Anonymous said...

So this is what wild asparagus look like. I've never had the pleasure of tasting them. The photo is beautiful. They look so dainty and delicious even if they're messy to eat...

Kalyn Denny said...

I haven't seen wild asparagus, but it looks like it would taste fantastic. Love the sound of this pasta dish with the asparagus and cream, and your photo is wonderful. I can tell when Kevin has this collection of asparagus recipes all assembled, there are going to be so many good recipes saved there!

Pene said...

I would suggest that next time, instead of spaghetti, cook some 'Angel Hair' pasta, if you can get it, as it doesn't take nearly as long to cook. When it is nearly cooked then drop the asparagus in the pot, simmer for a minute, then quickly strain, transfer to a bowl & add whatever takes your fancy & enjoy eating .

Anonymous said...

Looks fantastic, I've never had the chance to try wild asparagus. And I agree, with all kinds of asparagus simplicity is best!

And thanks again for sharing those bay leaves, they're wonderful!

Joycelyn said...

hi pille, gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous! i'm so envious you laid your hands on some wild asparagus - they, and your dishes, look beautiful

Clivia said...

Hi Pille,
I tried your roasted asparagus this Thursday and they were delicious. I substituted Swedish Västerbotten cheese for parmesan though. Another thing: I would love to meet you but July 8-9 I am already in Riga so maybe we can meet in Tallinn instead. My e-mail is on my blog, mail me so we can sort out the details...
Greetings from Clivia in sunny Stockholm!

Anonymous said...

Ahhh! What beautiful looking asparagus!!! I will have that image in my mind for some time. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pille, thanks for this special post. I have heard and read much about wild asparagus (it`s also very common in Toscana, for instance) but I have never seen it so far. But now as I have seen it in your pic I can even get a bit of its taste.... I hope you have better wheather than we, maybe it's warmer in Edinburgh than in Vienna, who knows ! Kind regards, angelika

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photo, incredible asparagus so delicate looking. Love the intense green. Looks good enough to eat, wish I could have a bite.

Ruth Daniels said...

The pasta dish sounds awesome. I wonder if I can still find some wild asparagus here.

Anonymous said...

Pille, I just tried the asparagus with pasta (spaghetti) and it was absolutely beautiful! So simple, yet so delicious!

Anonymous said...

Oh Pille, these look so beautiful - I wish I could taste them! We should go back to Paris again, shouldn't we? :)

Spinning Girl said...

seda sparglit meil siin ei kasva.

JacquelineC said...

Lovely post and nice blog. I'm a huge fan too and am making my first asperges sauvages this evening. Have written about spargel and common green asparagus in my column and will link to yours when I post on the wild experiment tonight. Thanks!

Pille said...

Fefe - yes, it's real, and it's not only edible but also very tasty:)

Mae - 'dainty' is a good word to describe them indeed. And although it was my first time to see/cook/eat wild asparagus, I truly hope it wasn't my last..

Kalyn - asparagus seems to be such a versatile plant indeed - too bad the season is so short! Thanks for your kind words about the photos -I guess the sunlight made all the difference.

Pene - thanks for the tip! I do think, however, that I'll stick to spaghetti, as I like the way wild asparagus and spaghetti have the same width.

Melissa - thanks! I did actually think (for a very brief second) whether I could part with couple of stems of wild asparagus, but eventually it was just bay leaves. Sorry:) Glad you liked them!

J - thank you!

Clivia - glad to hear you liked the dish! I will email you about possible meeting in Tallinn!

Sher - thanks for visiting!

Angelika - you must try some, it's lovely! And the weather up here as been nice indeed, not too much rain. Hope it turns to the better soon, so you can enjoy your beautiful new outdoor dining area!

Tanna - thank you for your compliment!

Ruth - does it grow in Canada?

Henrik - wonderful! Did you use wild asparagus (it should be available in the Netherlands) or did you use slender green asparagus?

Keiko - I cannot wait to go back to Paris! So much still to do and see and eat over there:)

Spinning Girl - siis on ju kurb jah:( Pead Euroopasse juurte juurde naasma;)

Jacquelinec - thank you! I am looking forward to reading your wild asparagus post!

rachel said...

I don't think I've ever posted a comment three years late, but here goes... How do you pack fresh produce for safe international travel?

Pille said...

Rachel - I packed those wild asparagus spears into a brown paper bag, and then in a small box in my suitcase (to avoid bruising). And cooked them in Edinburgh next evening.
I imagine on those long-distance flights you need to make sure that they're not being squashed?

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