The wild asparagus is so deeply embedded in the habits of Istria’s people that many take it for granted, when, in fact, it is an exceptional culinary delicacy. In Istria, both the young and the old know all there is to know about the asparagus, and you will be hard put to find a family that does not hurry to the forests with the coming of spring to harvest the first dark-green sprouts. Asparagus is typically prepared as a fritaja (omelette) using homegrown eggs.
In the past, Istrian shepherds harvested asparagus to supplement their households. They brought home bunches of wild asparagus tied with the stems of Spanish Broom.Today, asparagus hunting is a favourite pastime of the people in these regions, because, in addition to providing several hours of outdoor activity in the pure forest air, it ends with a delicious and nutritious meal.
The characteristics of asparagus are:
- A tart flavour
- A grassy green colour
- Wild, with a sharp flavour, yet tame
- High levels of vitamins and minerals
- Low calorie content
- Improves blood quality and helps purify the body
Although seemingly meagre and thin, the wild asparagus opens up new worlds in the kitchen, and its particular bitter taste is hard to resist. When preparing an asparagus fritaja, the stalks should be broken into small pieces, washed and sautéed in oil until soft. Salted, scrambled eggs are then added and cooked for several minutes more.
Asparagus lovers also store the stalks in freezers to be able to enjoy their unique flavour year round. From early times, folk tradition has extolled asparagus as a remedy for purifying the kidneys, and in recent times, medical research has confirmed its diuretic effect. Wild asparagus is also rich in minerals and vitamins.
Superstition in Istria is linked to the asparagus. Apparently, if you eat the raw tip of the first asparagus you pick at the beginning of the harvesting season, you will be safe from snakes in the forest for the rest of season.