Have you ever thought about making your hike or walk in nature more interesting by collecting delicious natural ingredients to bring to the table? If you visit Dalmatia and especially Istria, you can easily find yourself in the healthy “goldmine” of wild, green asparagus.
Find out more about different types of asparagus
and see how it is prepared in Croatia.
Asparagus is a plant from the lily family and there are 4 different types
growing in Croatia. The most popular are the wild ones, which you can find in a lot of places in nature if your vision is sharp enough - in ditches, bushes, along fence lines and in the gritty areas around mountains. They usually grow from late April through May until June
. Some people grow them in their gardens, but they need a lot of sun, humidity and no strong winds to survive. When they are growing wildly, you can usually find them between rocks or in the bushes around the seaside.
The tradition of consuming asparagus dates back to old Egypt and China
, since 3000 B.C. According to a French legend, they became very popular in the 18th century. The French emperor Louis XIV (The Grand, Sun King) loved to eat them, which could be one of the reasons they became so popular in France.
But why is this special “spring vegetable” so popular? Among different reasons, including the amazing taste, we have to let you know about all their benefits. These green sticks are really healthy, not only do they contain a lot of vitamins
(A, C, E, K, B12) but they also serve as an antioxidant, they reduce cholesterol, strengthen blood vessels and are great against digestive problems. Asparagus also contains a lot of vitamin K, that is why they are great for strengthening bones. The list of their benefits is long. They are good for pregnant women, people with diabetes and besides this they are also known as an aphrodisiac, due to its high vitamin E contents. Their best feature though is, that due to the fact that 93% of their structure is water, they are considered as low-calorie food.
If you are adventurous enough, we´d just like to point out to take care while plucking them because this time of the year is known for snakes to come out of their hiding spots. Therefore, the best time to go search for asparagus is in the early morning or at time of sunset. According to an old Istrian legend, there was a superstition, that if the Istrian shepherd eats the raw upper part of the asparagus from the beginning of their growing season, they will be protected from snakes. Superstitious or not, let us give you some tips on how to pluck them correctly.
When finding asparagus, it is important to know where to break it. It is best to break only the edible part at the top of the asparagus, where it is the smallest. Try to pick it with both hands using your fingernails for help and reach for the lowest point where you can remove it. The part below is too hard, even when cooked but it can be used as a base for soups.
There are numerous dishes which are well combined with these tasty green vegetables. Due to their slightly bitter taste, they go well with eggs. A speciality in Istria is a simple, yet delightful dish called “fritaja”, which is basically an omelette with asparagus. There are many other popular dishes you should try during your stay in Croatia, different combinations of asparagus as a risotto, with cannelloni, in a salad with eggs, polenta or just as a green side dish with a good steak and a glass of Istrian wine.
If you are a foodie who loves asparagus and would like to experience a bit more of gastro-tourism, there are some events you shouldn’t miss! The most famous gastro-event is definitely the famous Asparagus days
(21. March-13. May), all around different cities in Istria (like Umag, Novigrad, Buje…) There you can taste plenty of meals with asparagus (prepared by experienced chefs), along with Istrian wine and take part in the plucking competition. However, if you decide to visit Lovran in April, you may come across another asparagus celebration where you can taste the biggest “fritaja” of Istria
, made of 1000 eggs and 30 kg of wild asparagus. Look up our other article about many interesting Gastro events to check out while staying in one of our beautiful holiday villas in Istria