Intact Roadside Ditches Ideal for Wild Asparagus
People who’ve turned on to the availability of wild asparagus in Alberta keep their favourite spots a closely-guarded secret. And why wouldn’t they—it’s the same species of asparagus you find at your local grocer, but tastes noticeably sweeter.
Wild asparagus is a sun-loving plant that grows in open areas with moist, loose soils. Ideal locations include marsh fringes, alongside irrigation canals and in undeveloped roadside ditches. It grows quickly; fresh stalks can take from three days to as little as 24 hours to grow 10 inches as temperatures warm.
The best times to find wild asparagus is in the late summer or early fall. They grow tall, up to five feet or more at times, and are easily recognized by their fern-like leaves, much like dill. Experienced pickers find their best spots in fall, mark or memorize them, then return in spring to pick the delicious stalks. In Alberta, the preferred time for harvest is May through June; some say the best picking each year overlaps with the timing of the lily bloom. Wild asparagus can often be found against or near the fence line downwind of prevailing winds. Look for it in the opposite ditch, or across the road, from an old or existing farmyard.
When first harvested, treat fresh asparagus much as you would cut flowers, placing them in a glass with a few inches of water. This will keep it fresh for up to 10 days. Cook it just like you cook store-bought asparagus.
Wild asparagus – one more reason to keep Alberta’s roadside ditches intact!
Visit our favourite hunter, gatherer and cook, Hank Shaw for his tips on gathering wild asparagus.
Save the Edges is bringing awareness of the values of intact roadside ditches and undeveloped right-of-ways to Southern Alberta landowners.