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Looking out for asparagus

Keep an eye out for the Christmas trees!
Keep an eye out for the Christmas trees!
Creative Commons: Rasbak

The next time you're driving along in the country, look out the window for clumps of spindly, dark green plants that look like wispy Christmas trees. Congratulations -- you've found wild asparagus!

It's one of the most unknown of wild foods, which is a shame. It's delicious, easy to harvest over quite a long period of time, and Euell Gibbons even wrote a book about it called Stalking the Wild Asparagus. It's ready for picking in the spring, but the time to find it is in the fall. And when you find it, mark it!

In his 1985 article in the Minnesota Volunteer, Harvey B. Dallman says:

"...In fact, this is a good time to draw a detailed map of where the bushes are located. In the next three to four months, they will grow five to six feet tall, all fern-like and beautiful, finally spreading out like the tail of a peacock. At this time, I mark the spot with a painted wooden stake, l/2 inches wide and three feet long. Then I record the spot on a map of the area. If you follow my advice, I predict that your joy of picking fresh, spring asparagus will go on for a long time."

Another option is to use technology -- mark it using a foraging app, use Google maps, or find your own way of keeping track of it. In the spring, it will be worth it.

I'll leave you with Jean Queneau's poem about it from The Wildflower Home Almanac of Poetry.


It's easy enough to spot in July,
long since inedible;
the fat little shoots
are now six feet tall
and three feet wide. Even driving past
at fifty, you see them:
delicate Christmas trees
with decorations, half-inch balls
of green and orange
which, planted,
could start their own forest.
Note the spot, then
next spring, when lilac blooms are
small grape clusters,
go; they will be waiting.

Want to learn more about foraging? Be sure to subscribe to my column to be notified when I publish a new article! There's more of my favorite wild edible resources on Pinterest. And don't forget to check out my Cooking with Kids column!

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