Asparagus and its Relatives

Green, White, or Wild they are all good for risotto!

GREEN ASPARAGUS

Green asparagus is eaten worldwide, though the availability of imports throughout the year has made it less of a delicacy than it once was. In Europe, however, due to the short growing season and demand for local produce, asparagus commands a premium price.

Green asparagus are good with eggs, in risotto, and in creams, such as Cream of Asparagus. A delicate and elegant dish to serve as a main entry dish for an important dinner.

WHITE ASPARAGUS

White asparagus are very popular in Italy, particularly Northern Italy. To cultivate white asparagus, the shoots are covered with soil as they grow, i.e. earthed up; without exposure to sunlight, no photosynthesis starts, and the shoots remain white.

Compared to Green Asparagus, the White ones are considered less bitter and much more tender. Freshness is very important, and the lower ends of white asparagus must be peeled before cooking.

Only seasonally on the menu (late April to June), White asparagus are grown in Bassano del Grappa—a small town in the Province of Vicenza—where they hold the “Asparagus Fair” during which gastronomic specialties based on asparagus are served: from steamed asparagus with eggs, to risotto, with ham, and lasagna (this must be good! 😋)

COMMON HOP

Bruscandoli or Humulus lupulus (common hop or hops), often called “wild asparagus,” they are not asparagus, they are the Hops, the apical part of the wild hop shoots.

The chemical compounds found in H. lupulus are main components in flavoring and bittering beer.

The bruscandoli/Hops are very common in Northern Italy, particularly in Veneto and almost impossible to find in Central Italy or around Rome.

Like all spring shoots they are refreshing and diuretic and with low caloric intake, so if you find them eat them as much as you like.

They are used in the kitchen to make omelettes and to season pasta, and the pesto with a bunch of bruscandoli and almonds is a delicate, new preparation to try.

RISOTTO WITH BRUSCANDOLI

I like this risotto almost more than the one with Green Asparagus. The recipe for risotto is always the same as explained in :”Everything you need to know about Risotto”.

You would need a good vegetable broth, a bunch of Bruscandoli/Hops, a glass of dry white wine, and very little onion.

The bruscandoli/hops need to be cut off of the though ends, and then quickly boiled in lightly salted water (about 4 min. ). Keep the water, it is good to add a ladle of the water to increase the flavor.

Drain and cut the Bruscandoli/Hops in small segments—while keeping a few tops to decorate the dish before serving, so to let everyone know what’s cooking! 😉—and then added to the rice, right after the wine has evaporated.

Cook the usual 17 minutes—add some butter for creaminess and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Of course to go for a walk into the country side and foraging for Hops, and then feast on risotto is priceless!

Next I’ll make the pesto, stay tuned!

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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