Asparagus - Croatian delicacy you must try
Except for beautiful nature, amazing architecture and crystal clear sea, Croatia is well known for gastronomy. Traditional dishes with the oldest domestic recipes are, for some, the main reason they want to visit this little country.
Speaking of tradition and staying true to cultural roots, Dalmatia and Istria have something special for you. And to be fully prepared for this treat, we suggest you come to Croatia during spring. Why? Well, because there’s no better proof for the arrival of spring than asparagus starting to be the number one pick from a restaurant's menu.
Wild asparagus can be found all around Dalmatia and Istria and they grow in the fields and forests. If you ask the locals, you’ll see just how divided their opinions are - for some, the best part is picking and searching for asparagus, while the others will tell you eating them is the real excitement.
The asparagus season
Wild asparagus grows somewhere between mid-March to mid-April. Don’t be surprised to see a bunch of people just standing by the main road selling them, especially around Zadar, in Biograd, after they just picked them from the nearby forests.
Croatian term for asparagus is ‘’šparoge’’. The best clue to know if you’re near them is if you see small bushes with needle-like leaves. Those leaves are their old plants.
So, if you’re ready to go for a walk in nature and add a little physical and mental exercise to it, it’s your time to go picking asparagus.
What you need to know about asparagus
From the earliest times, asparagus has been used as a vegetable and great natural medicine. Because of its flavour and diuretic properties, it soon became so popular that it remained one of the most popular specialities in this country. Some people even love to eat it raw.
The best way to enjoy the asparagus is by cooking it and serving it with hard-boiled eggs. However, if you’ve decided to pick asparagus, there are some things you should know before doing it.
The most important thing to know is the snakes. Asparagus grows in the spring and there is a great chance you’ll pass somewhere near a snake, as spring is the time they also wake up. A good thing is that you’ll probably see a snake that is not poisonous. This means that if you’re not afraid of snakes, you are good to go. The most common snake we see in these areas is blavor, European Legless Lizard.
Hunting for wild asparagus
If you want to fit in and see what life in Croatia is really about, you should go hunting for wild asparagus. Especially if you’re staying in Dalmatia or Istria, as these areas have forests filled with asparagus. To locals, spring is their favourite time of the year because they can finally do the activity they really love and enjoy.
So, now let’s talk about how to find wild asparagus. It grows in partially sunny places - orchards and olive groves are the places you should search for. Except for these places, you can also find them along roadsides, parks, fence lines, field borders and ditches.
It’s a very simple and easy activity, but don’t be surprised if you feel tired afterwards - it can be exhausting, especially if you went hunting in the middle of a hot day. Here are the steps you should follow. Scan the ground and try to find prickly bushes. Look if there are any stalks of asparagus.
Asparagus is usually 30 - 70 centimetres high and there are more than 20 edible species. However, in Croatia, there’s only one edible species of asparagus (while four species overall grow in this area).
Wild asparagus differs from the cultivated one in the taste and thickness, the wild asparagus being thinner and tastier.
Preparing asparagus dishes
Wild asparagus is rich in vitamin C, fibre, calcium and potassium, iron, B-complex vitamins, etc. It's easy to see health benefits from it, right? And don’t worry, it perfectly fits into your new diet, as asparagus is very low in calories.
Before cooking it, remove hardened parts and you’re good to go.
You can serve them with hard-boiled eggs, which is their most common presentation, or you can incorporate them in any other dish, from salad and soup to meat and rice.