Wild asparagus is very important edible plant in Mediterranean area. Main part of the plant which is used for food are shoots. It has been collected from the ancient time. It is considered an interesting crop for marginal rural areas due to its frugality, which allows it to be cultivated in arid soils, and for its already existing market.
The wild asparagus is considered a healthy food used in folk medicine as diuretic to treat several kidney related disorders. It is consumed cooked in different dishes, although it is preferred with eggs, i.e. omelets, scrambled or poached eggs. According to nutritional studies, the spears of A. acutifolius are rich in flavonoids and vitamin C, showing a high antioxidant activity (even when examined after boiling). Specifically, their content of ascorbic acid is more than fivefold higher than that from the cultivated asparagus, A. officinalis L.
Asparagus is dioecious, perennial plant that stays in one place for more than 15 years (100). The underground part of asparagus consists of upper side with numerous buds and roots on the bottom. Young, succulent shoots develop from the buds in the early spring (mid-March – May) from which, if not cut off in spring, the stem is developed that can grow up to 1.5 meters. Flowers are yellow-green, 5 mm length and starts with blooming in a period May – June. Pollination is done by insects, with special emphasis on honey bees. Fruits are ripening in a period from October to September. Unmatured berries are green, after few weeks start to be dark purple colored. In one berry there are 2-3 small seeds. Asparagus is grown directly from seed or seedlings that can be produced in containers. Wild asparagus prefer to be overshadowed by shrubs and trees, so it has good potential to be cultivated with olive trees (Oliva europaea L.) within agroforestry system. Average temperatures 10-20 (25) °C. These plants grow near woods and inside it, on uncultivated places, on dry and sunny soil (Terra rossa, Calcocambisol) above limestone base. They can be found at an altitude of 0–1,100 meters above sea level.
Management of this plant is not strictly defined. Wild asparagus is collected by individual pickers. In Croatia, it’s necessary to obtain a permit for collecting shoots in state owned forests. Law of each country defines quantities that can be picked up for personal or commercial use. Unfortunately, control by government institutions is on minimum level.
In last decade some country (Italy, France and Spain) try to establish plantation of wild asparagus. They work on intensive researches and raise experimental plots.
Europeans most important asparagus producers are Italy, Spain and France, but there are still no data of production quantities and areas.
- Molina, M., Pardo-de-Santayana, M., Garcia, E., Aceituno-Mata, L., Morales, R., Tardio, J., Exploring the potential of wild food resources in the Mediterranean region, Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research (4), 2012, p.1090-1100.
- Eckert, J. E., Honey bees increase asparagus seed, Amer. Bee Jour. 96, 1956, p.153-154.
- Rosati, A., Benincasa, P., Tei, F., Plant Density and Genotype Effects on Wild Asparagus (Asparagus acutifolius L.) Spear Yield and Quality, HORTSCIENCE 42(5), 2007, p.1163-1166.
- Pepe et al., Valorizzazione dell’asparago selvatico, Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria (CREA), 2009