Tuscany wild asparagus

To find it, you have to dig into the undergrowth. In spring, a small window of opportunity opens in the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany, south of Siena, where you can find the green wild asparagus. It sprouts as soon as the spring sun breaks through in the valley. The team at Hotel Adler Thermae is changing their program during these few weeks. Instead of Italian cooking like at Mom’s, a true rarity is being pursued. For the cooking enthusiasts among the hotel guests there is then the opportunity to collect wild asparagus and prepare the valuable vegetable afterwards immediately in the hotel’s own Tenuta, the vineyard above the hotel.

Gewusst wie: : Nur mit geschultem Auge lässt sich der Wilde Spargel finden. Das trockene Unterholz aus dem Vorjahr zeigt den Ort von frischen Spargeltrieben an. Das Zeitfenster für die Spargelsuche beträgt gerade einmal zwei Wochen, oft Mitte bis Ende April / © Foto: Georg Berg
How to know: : Only with a trained eye can you find wild asparagus. The dry undergrowth from the previous year indicates the location of fresh asparagus shoots. The window of opportunity to search for asparagus is just two weeks, often in mid to late April / © Photo: Georg Berg

The harvest of the wild preciousness is clearly more difficult than the subsequent preparation. But only those who know the plant and have trained their eye for it will find it. That’s why Christina Mairhofer, who is responsible for the varied excursion program at Hotel Adler Thermae, has enlisted expert support. Giulio is the asparagus whisperer of Bagno Vignoni.

Der Held des Tages. Ohne Giulio, hier mit Christina Mairhofer (r.) und Angela Berg (l.) wäre unsere Sammeltüte leer geblieben / © Foto: Georg Berg
Hero of the day. Without Giulio, here with Christina Mairhofer (r.) and Angela Berg (l.) our collection bag would have remained empty / © Photo: Georg Berg

Together with Christina Mairhofer, Giulio will guide participants through this culinary excursion. The asparagus hunt begins right outside the hotel gates. And it seems so simple. All you have to do is look for the indicator plant.

Etwas einfacher zu sichten als wilder Spargel, aber am heutigen Tag nicht gefragt: blühende Rosmarinbüsche säumen den Weg / © Foto: Georg Berg
A little easier to spot than wild asparagus, but not in demand today: flowering rosemary bushes line the path / © Photo: Georg Berg

The woody asparagus herb from the previous year shows us where the young shoots sprout within a radius of about 50 cm around the old plant. So much for the theory. In practice, Giulio makes one find after another with a captivating flair, while we laymen stumble more or less unsuccessfully through the botany.

Junger Spargeltrieb mit umtriebigen Spargelsucher. Die Saison ist kurz, so dass sich Giulio im Herbst auf Trüffel spezialisiert hat / © Foto: Georg Berg
Young asparagus shoot with busy asparagus seekers. The season is short, so Giulio specializes in truffles in the fall / © Photo: Georg Berg

In Tuscany, wild asparagus is considered an absolute delicacy and is sold at markets as a rarity. The noble vegetable achieves kilo prices of 50 euros. The harvest period lasts only about three weeks. The green asparagus tip, which is the longest exposed to daylight, has slight bitter notes, while the lower part is fresh, green and tender.

Junger Trieb von Wildem Spargel tritt aus dem Holz der alten Pflanze heraus. Das trockene Gestrüpp ist für das geschulte Auge der Anzeiger für den wervollen Fund von frischen Spargeltrieben / © Foto: Georg Berg
Young shoot of wild asparagus emerges from the wood of the old plant. To the trained eye, the dry undergrowth is the indicator of a valuable find of fresh asparagus shoots / © Photo: Georg Berg
Endlich ein Treffer für Food-Redakteurin Angela Berg! Das Prachtstück einer wilden Spargelstange / © Foto: Georg Berg
Finally a hit for food editor Angela Berg! The splendor of a wild asparagus spear / © Photo: Georg Berg
Christina Mairhofer, die Frau die zu jedem Hügel im Val d’Orcia Geschichten erzählen kann, hält eine ordentliche Ausbeute / © Foto: Georg Berg
Christina Mairhofer, the woman who can tell stories about every hill in Val d’Orcia, holds a decent haul / © Photo: Georg Berg

After a good two-hour search, we approach Tenuta Sanoner, which is actually just a short walk from the Hotel Adler Thermae. Christina and Giulio are satisfied with the yield and confident that they can also fill the 15 or so participants of the culinary hike with this find.

Gut zu Fuß erreichbar liegt oberhalb des Hotels das junge Weingut der Familie Sanoner / © Foto: Georg Berg
Within walking distance above the hotel is the young winery of the Sanoner family / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Tenuta, is farmed biodynamically and in the greatest possible harmony with nature. The Sangiovese grape is grown in different locations. Already after a few years it has succeeded in producing excellent wines. About 500 olive trees also belong to the estate. The Tenuta Sanoner is a modern building. Similar to the hotel, it blends perfectly into the landscape. Almost invisible from the outside with its rusty-earthy facade, the winery offers a highly modern and straightforward interior on the inside.

Wer rastet der rostet: Einmal Hände waschen, Schürze um und los geht der Spargel-Workshop.Die Zubereitung des wilden Spargels kann beginnen  / © Foto: Georg Berg
A rolling stone gathers no moss: Wash your hands, put on an apron and off you go to the asparagus workshop.The preparation of wild asparagus can begin / © Photo: Georg Berg

To fill up a hungry hiking party and at the same time showcase the rare vegetables well, two classic Italian dishes are suitable: risotto and frittata.

Zubereitung von Spargel Risotto mit frisch gesammeltem Wilden Spargel. Vorbereitungen für das Spargel-Risotto: Poirée, und Pancetta mit Olivenöl andünsten, danach kommen einige Spargelstücke und schwarzer Pfeffer hinzu / © Foto: Georg Berg
Preparation of asparagus risotto with freshly collected wild asparagus. Preparations for the asparagus risotto: poirée, and pancetta with olive oil sauté, then add some asparagus pieces and black pepper / © Photo: Georg Berg.

In the open kitchen, we get right to work. The spoils of the morning are washed. Giulio shows us that each spear has a kind of predetermined breaking point. There where it goes from crunchy to woody, at this point the asparagus can be easily broken by hand. The woody ends go into the pot for the asparagus broth. The more noble upper part is put aside.

Kochen mit dem richtigen Biss: Giulio weiss wie es geht und gibt Redakteurin Angela Berg Tipps / © Foto: Georg Berg
Cooking with the right bite: Giulio knows how to do it and gives editor Angela Berg tips / © Photo: Georg Berg

The majority of the precious asparagus stalks are only added to the risotto much later. After all, the tender stalks should still have a slight bite and their intense asparagus flavor. Giulio’s rule of thumb for the risotto is two handfuls of rice per person.

Faustregel: pro Person zwei Hand voll Reis! / © Foto: Georg Berg
Rule of thumb: two handfuls of rice per person / © Photo: Georg Berg

The rice is added to the prepared pans and also briefly sweated. Then begins what many find so time-consuming about risotto. But with a good glass of Aetos Rosé from the in-house winery, the constant pouring of the risotto becomes a pleasure. This is done ladle by ladle from the large pot of vegetable broth and the cooked asparagus ends.

So kommt das Spargel Aroma in den Reis: Die Gemüsebrühe wird mit den abgeschnittene Ende der Spargelstangen zusammen aufgekocht. / © Foto: Georg Berg
This is how the asparagus flavor gets into the rice: The vegetable broth is boiled together with the cut end of the asparagus stalks / © Photo: Georg Berg

While most of the hiking group has already taken a seat on the outdoor terrace, Giulio devotes himself to the 24 eggs that are waiting for him in a bowl with salt and parmesan.

When this mass starts to falter, Giulio offers us another true frittata stunt. In real life he has worked for decades as a fireman. So he gets the heavy pan and its contents going almost effortlessly.

Flying Frittata. Den Halbmond aus Eiern mit Kratern aus wildem Spargel wendet Giulio in der Luft. / © Foto: Georg Berg
Flying Frittata. Giulio turns the half-moon of eggs with craters of wild asparagus in the air. / © Photo: Georg Berg
Antipasti mit Spargel-Frittata / © Foto: Georg Berg
Antipasti with asparagus frittata / © Photo: Georg Berg

An all-around enjoyable excursion with a wonderful finish on the panoramic terrace of Tenuta Sanoner. The perfect place to taste good wines and participate in one of the cooking classes regularly offered there.

Entspannt genießen auf der Panorama-Terrasse der Tenuta Sanoner / © Foto: Georg Berg
Relaxing on the panoramic terrace of Tenuta Sanoner / © Photo: Georg Berg

Hidden treasure: wild asparagus of Tuscany

In spring, a small window of opportunity opens in the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany, south of Siena, to search for wild green asparagus. Asparagus acutifolius, from the asparagus family, is the official name. Wild asparagus grows in olive groves and feels at home near certain tree species such as oak. The woody asparagus weed from the previous year indicates where the young shoots sprout within a radius of about 50 cm around the old plant. But despite these clues, the collector needs a trained eye to find the very narrow mostly strong green plant shoots in the undergrowth. The wild asparagus grows as soon as the spring sun asserts itself in the Val d’Orcia.

How much does wild asparagus cost?

Wild asparagus is considered a delicacy in Tuscany and is sold at markets as a rarity. The noble vegetable achieves kilo prices of 50 euros. The harvest period is two weeks and in good years three weeks. In Tuscany there are many collectors who specialize in asparagus in the spring and truffles in the winter.

How does wild asparagus taste?

The green asparagus tip, which is the longest exposed to daylight, has slight bitter notes, while the lower part is fresh, green and tender. Wild asparagus is more intense in flavor than cultivated asparagus. It has a slightly bitter to spicy note and is distinctly aromatic and strong in taste. Thanks to the intensity of flavor, even small quantities are sufficient for preparation in the kitchen. Thus, wild asparagus turns a simple omelet into a culinary feast. Another classic is the asparagus risotto with wild asparagus.

Follow up by Angela Berg

What else I learned while preparing wild asparagus with asparagus whisperer Guilio? Carefully palpate the individual spear and where it transitions from crunchy to woody, at this point the asparagus is easy to break by hand. The woody ends go into the pot for the asparagus broth. The fine part is folded into the risotto much later. So the intense flavor is not lost and some bite is also desired.

The cost of half board was not calculated by the hotel

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