This is the time of year when we see cars parked along the roadside and people nearby with their heads down looking for something. What is it they’re looking for? They’re hunting for wild asparagus.
Wild asparagus is the same as the cultivated kind. When growing out on its own without anyone tending it, it’s called “wild”.
The best place to find wild asparagus is near abandoned homes or sites where a house used to stand. That’s because years ago, everyone had a small asparagus patch in their yard. Asparagus plants are perennials and often outlive their original owners.
A wild asparagus patch can also start from seed. Sometimes you can find a secondary patch growing under nearby trees where birds perch and spread asparagus seeds in their droppings.
It’s pretty hard to find asparagus just by searching for the newly formed spears without knowing where to begin looking. Seasoned asparagus hunters look for the distinctive fern-like, fully-grown fronds — the mature plants that develop from the spears. They make a mental note of the location and come back the following spring to harvest the spears.
If you don’t know what an asparagus frond looks like, find someone who is growing asparagus and take a look at the plant. Once you’ve learned to recognize asparagus fronds, you’ll easily be able to spot them from your car while driving down the road.
Like morel mushroom hunters or smelt dippers, many asparagus hunters won’t share their secret spot with anyone except their closest friends. I’ve even had the weird experience of an asparagus picker get upset with me because I was picking asparagus from “his patch” even though it was on my property.
Keep in mind, when you do find a wild asparagus patch, ask permission from the land owner before you harvest the crop.