It is the season for Asparagus in Europe. So, with that in mind, we went foraging for wild asparagus near the banks of the Nalon river in Asturias, Spain. Wild asparagus is one of the most valued and widely consumed non-cultivated plants throughout the Mediterranean region.
Asparagus acutifolius, or wild asparagus is an evergreen perennial plant that grows on its own in the wild. We found it growing in grassy areas of abandoned pastures, not far from the river edge. The soil in the areas we found the spears was quite sandy with a history of disturbance. We tell you this so you might know where to try looking for some!
Finding the wild asparagus was no easy feat, since many of the spears were hidden amongst other plants. The stalks themselves were easily identifiable once we knew where to find them. We harvested the longer shoots, snapping the spear close to the ground.
Asparagus can grow up to 25cm in a 24 hour period, so we can return in a few days to find more fresh spears. While we were looking for the asparagus we stumbled on some fresh fennel growth, which we also picked.
Wild asparagus has a stronger flavour than its cultivated cousin and is great when partnered with olive oil and lemon. We decided to skewer the stalks together and grill them on the barbecue, partnering it with a hollandaise sauce.
We removed the tough bottom of each asparagus spear by holding each end and bending it gently until it snapped at its natural point of tenderness. Then we rinsed the spears to remove any residues of the sandy soil. We brushed the spears with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and freshly ground pepper. Then we placed the asparagus on a medium-heat grill. Our grill had a lid, so we closed it. The asparagus was grilled until it started to go brown after about 6 minutes for the thinner spears and 8 minutes for the fatter spears.
While the asparagus was grilling, we made a hollandaise sauce. We heated up 60 grams of butter in a microwave for about 1 minute until it was pretty hot (with steam coming off) making sure we covered it in case it overboiled.
Meanwhile, in a jug, we combined 3 large egg yolks, 1tbsp lemon juice, 1tsp mustard, pinch salt, and a pinch of chilli powder. Using a hand blender, the mixture was pulsed for about 10 seconds. Then, with the hand blender running, we slowly added the hot butter until it was beautifully smooth. We poured the sauce into a small bowl.
Then the dish was assembled. Grilled asparagus first, a drizzle of hollandaise sauce, and a few small sprigs of fresh fennel.
Here are some other tips for grilling asparagus, which we recently featured on Instagram @FornettoOvens
Try roasting your asparagus in an oven, smoker or kamado on a wood plank to give your food a delicious, smoky flavour. Wood planks are an easy way to cook fish, meat, chicken, cheese and vegetables. Have a look at Fornetto’s beech wood plank by clicking here.
Try brushing olive oil over the asparagus spears to coat and wrapping each spear in a slice of bacon. Pin with a toothpick to hold it together and grill on medium heat over an oiled grate until the bacon is crispy, 3 minutes on each side. Season with pepper and serve with lemon wedges. Easy and delicious!
Try coating your asparagus, or any vegetable, with olive oil, minced garlic and a sprinkle of your favourite rub before grilling. If you live in Australia you could try a generous shake of Wyld Smoke Rubs Stockmans Meat Rub!