Travel adventures in Italy and beyond

Hunting Wild Asparagus in Tuscany

Apricot TreeLast month we made a return visit to our favorite place in Italy, Podere Le Nonne in Montecello Amiata. We spent the weekend with the hospitable, entertaining and oh so talented duo, Martina and Tutilo, who make the best wine and olive oil we’ve ever tasted. On our first day, after a simple but delicious lunch of local cheeses, cured meats and home-made bread, we spent the afternoon hauling tree branches and vine clippings into a brush fire. Winter and spring in wine country are the seasons for burning off all the extra growth that was trimmed off in the fall and winter. In the hills in the distance we counted no less than six billowing columns of smoke rising from other farms and vineyards.

Wild AsparagusDinner that night included lots of new foods for us. First was an antipasto of sliced up cardi marinated in olive oil and red wine vinegar that Martina makes herself. Cardi (cardoons) looks kind of like a celery stalk but tastes like artichoke. Then we had white fish with Jerusalem Artichokes (which are neither from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes). They look kind of like small ginger bulbs, and they’re a real pain to peel and cut up because of all the small knobs, but the tangy, sweet taste is worth it. And finally for dessert, we had fichi d’india sorbet made from the cactus flowers that grow right outside Martina and Tutilo’s front door. We also got to sample two vintages of Gideone, the wine Tutilo makes. We got an early preview of the 2006 variety, which we helped bottle, and Tutilo is so happy with it that he’ll enter it in an international wine competition in London this month.

Asparagus HuntingThe next day we went hunting for asparagi selvatici, wild asparagus! After a quick lesson in how to identify we plant, to look for a long, thin strand of vine with wispy, green spikes, not to be confused with fennel stems which are more feathery, we set out through the trees and brush to find our lunch. About 2 hours later, after picking through a season’s worth of leaf covering on the forest floor, scaling steep hill sides, traversing old stream beds, and being attached by pricker bushes we came up with a grand total of about 10 asparagus stalks. Luckily, the far more skillful Martina and Tutilo vastly exceeded our catch and we ended the morning with plenty of asparagus to make an abundant dish for lunch.

Church in GrossetoAfter lunch we drove down the windy road from the hilly interior of Maremma province to the capital city of Grosseto near the coast. The old city is almost entirely enclosed by old city walls. One section with an old armory still open for visitors to explore. The historic city center is full of pedestrian-only streets lined with shops. The large main square is flanked by a pink and white marble cathedral, a brick façade town building, and a row of colorful buildings atop an arched walkway.

One Response to “Hunting Wild Asparagus in Tuscany

  1. Della

    Aww, I’m glad you guys got to revisit the winery! I want to go!

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