By now you surely know that The Portugal News has teamed up with local chef and expert forager João Marreiros. João is a wizard in the kitchen but also, having grown up in the countryside in Monchique, a bit of a whizz when it comes to which wild plant is which - and what you can do with them. He regularly supplements his menu with what he finds on his walks and every month he has very kindly agreed to let us know what's going on - ‘on the ground’.
This month he’s chosen wild asparagus. It's highly likely that you’ve either seen or, if you are a gardener, come into painful contact with this green bristly beast of a bush yourself (although you may not have known that it was asparagus).
Their shoots usually start to sprout about 3 days after the rain and you want to catch them quickly before they turn into prickles. I often see locals out picking them. However, as always, you should only go foraging with somebody who knows what they are doing and, fair warning, if you are going after this plant in particular, it's a bit like hunting and you need to go armed - because it will fight back.
It's certainly a fearsome opponent and I doubt it’s anybody's favourite once it's grown up. However, it does have its good points - along with its many, many painful pointy points.
But I’ll let João tell you about them…
Wild asparagus (espargos selvagem)
The Alentejo will always be in my heart, not only for the Alentejo people who are lively, humble people who know how to maintain tradition (an example of this is the beautiful Alentejo singing that is raised in their throats, at the end of a hard working day under the scorching sun), but also for the wonderful Alentejo cuisine, which is undoubtedly one of the best the country has to offer. That's why, this month, I’d like to present a plant that is constantly used in its cuisine, especially in some wonderful scrambled eggs or fantastic ‘migas’ (a traditional bread).
Asparagou acutifolius L.
Inhabitant: bushes and uncultivated land
Distribution: Southern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.
Flowering season: March to July
Parts used: young shoots (which appear with the rains)
Medicinal uses: it is diuretic