What’s your favourite variety? Do you prefer green or white asparagus?
Did you know that the habit of eating asparagus was already very popular during Roman times? The Romans used to cultivate them in large quantities and Roman emperors liked asparagus so much that they would build special ships called “asparagus” in order to transport them.
Whilst in Italy I was thrilled to be invited by the Marsoni family to visit their asparagus farm. The rustic, colourful and pleasantly warm look of their farmhouse, immersed in the peaceful Friulian countryside, has that typical architecture of the regions of Friuli and Veneto and it is simply splendid.
White asparagus are white because they are buried in the soil and never see the sun. In fact they are also covered in black plastic sheets. They differ in taste to the green variety as they are more delicate, with a creamy and buttery texture, ideal in risotto dishes, lasagne or just on their own with a dash of olive oil, a pinch of salt and lemon juice.
Tradition says that white asparagus were discovered by accident in 1500 thanks to a monk who had to pick them up by pulling them from the ground, thus discovering their delicacy and their methods of cultivation.
I found it interesting to know that it takes 3 years to grow asparagus and lots of work has to be put into the soil with consistent treatments in order to produce them, that’s why they can be quite costly. They are gorgeous vegetables though and they can transform a dish.. they also have depurative and diuretic properties.
After being picked by hand they are washed in large machines;
They are then prepared to be sold by cutting off their tough ends.
Buying asparagus straight from a farm makes a big difference. They are crunchier, crispier and generally tastier than the ones you find in supermarkets which look drier and are pretty much tasteless by the time they reach your table.
A good piece of advice I have been given is to store them in the fridge and wrap them in a damp cloth, where they can last well for 3 to 4 days. You can also submerge their stems and store them in cold water for 24 hours outside the fridge.
This visit was so interesting, there were many things I did not know about asparagus. I went home with some asparagus and made a tasty risotto and with the asparagus being so fresh, it was one of most tasty risottos I have ever made!
Before leaving I took a view of the beautiful and restful scenery with the Julian Alps in the background. I love my beautiful region.
I’d like to thank the Marsoni family for their courtesy and hospitality. (www.marsoni.it).