e country folks have simple hobbies, particularly in the colder months. Shopping? Not our forte. Ask any of your women friends who live in the country if they’ve recently worn their designer pumps. Prada in the mud is a no-no.
Well, the sticks afford few opportunities for concerts and theater. The closest large town with a decent movie theater is 25 kilometers away. Try driving along a dark mountain road in January in Umbria. Down in the valley it might rain, but up here it’s all black ice. It doesn’t put you in a movie mood.
Our real hobby, at least until spring has stamped its full authority, is to keep ourselves warm. A 500-year-old stone house is a heat sinkhole. Warming it with gas is unaffordable. If you work at home as we do, you spend most of your time lugging inordinate amounts of wood to the stove or fireplace. As a consequence we need no gym. That’s one more problem solved.
When spring finally comes, as it has finally, we rush outdoors. Give us the first days of timid sun and you’ll find us outside pruning lavender bushes, sweeping leaves, planting geraniums. If the temperature stays up for at least a week, we march into the bushes and pick wild asparagus. You need thick boots and gloves. Vipers tend to like the same sunny spots where the plant thrives. No matter, we’re unstoppable.
If you have never tasted the tender flower shoots, you might not be able to appreciate the sense of excitement found in returning from a victorious wild asparagus hunt. Forget the mild cultivated stuff, this is flavor on steroids.
You might be able to find wild asparagus in a market, but if they hang around for a few days they loose their brilliance. Better if you find a friend with a house in the country who’s willing to take you along in the adventure.
Here is what to do once you have conquered a bundle of the delightful stems.
Soft Scrambled Eggs with Wild Asparagus and Parmesan (Serves 2)
— Soak the asparagus briefly in cold water, remove the grit and cut them in 2 cm (1 inch) pieces.
— Discard the woody ends. In a shallow pan, sauté the garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil until fragrant, about 30 seconds
— Add the asparagus and cover with water. Increase heat to high and cook stirring occasionally, for about 6 or 7 minutes. By the time the water has boiled away the asparagus will be soft but still bright green.
— At this point add the sliced chili pepper (if you’re using it) and lower the heat. Add the eggs and Parmesan, season and scramble until just creamy and set. Hurry to the table and eat with crusty bread.
Final note: garlic-infused asparagus can also be used on spaghetti. Just add the cooked pasta instead of eggs, stir vigorously, dress with a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmesan and serve.