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A spear of asparagus pokes through the soil near Forestburg. Photos by Debey Senska. Click to enlarge.
A spear of asparagus pokes through the soil near Forestburg. Photos by Debey Senska. Click to enlarge.
Senska hunts for asparagus by scouting overgrown bushes in the fall.
Senska hunts for asparagus by scouting overgrown bushes in the fall.
The overgrown foliage is wispy with tiny green needles.
The overgrown foliage is wispy with tiny green needles.

Asparagus Stalking

Mar 30, 2012

Food foragers unite! It’s time to start scoping out wild asparagus. For spring hunting, you can start by looking for last year’s dead asparagus bush. The new green stalks should be hiding underneath. Hunting usually starts in April or May, but things are sprouting a little earlier with the unseasonably warm weather.

Debey Senska of Forestburg sent me a photo of her first find of the year. It’s not ready to pick, but she’s excited for when it is. “In my area, it seems like when the lilacs bloom it’s time to start looking,” says Senska. “In the James River Valley the growing season will be earlier than Forestburg, and up by Aberdeen it will be later.” I’m going to keep an eye out this weekend in Yankton while hunting for morels. I saw a few lilac blooms out by the lake this week.

Senska's hunting begins by scouting in the fall. It can be hard to spot while still in edible form, but in the fall you can look for overgrown wild asparagus. It will be about four feet tall, bushy and fernlike. Its foliage is wispy with tiny green needles. It’s too late to eat, but make note of the location and come back in the spring. Senska looks in well-drained soils near rivers, lakes, and along fence lines. “When we lived on the farm, my kids and I spent many hours hunting asparagus within a two mile range of home,” says Senska. “It even grew in the fence line of the little country cemetery where my son is now buried.”

Asparagus crop varies by the amount of snow or rain. “The water content in asparagus is almost 95%, so in a wet spring the harvest is amazing,” Senska says. It hasn’t been especially rainy so far this year, so we’ll see how it goes. If you decide to venture out this season, have fun and enjoy your free food!

Comments

07:26 am - Fri, March 30 2012
Laura said:
Eating food is even more satisfying when you've tracked it down yourself.

Have you ever read Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons? I haven't, but I've always wanted to follow his example. However, I also want my hand held a bit so I don't end up accidentally eating something wrong and killing myself.
08:06 am - Fri, March 30 2012
Rebecca said:
I haven't read it, but I've heard of it. It's on my list of books I want to read. I feel the same way about wild mushrooms.
02:51 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
John Andrews said:
This has nothing to do with your column, but if you say the headline really quickly, it sounds like "asparagus talking." That would be silly.
05:03 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
Rebecca said:
ha ha ha!
09:31 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
Jim said:
We are surrounded by natural food. Some of it, like tree mushrooms, asparagus or black walnuts are easy to acquire and delicious. Anytime you try something really new, eat only a little at first. If it doesn't agree its its off the list. If it's enjoyable you have expanded your menu and your knowledge of the natural world. Nothing silly about talking asparagus.
07:29 am - Mon, April 2 2012
Rebecca said:
Thanks, Jim!
08:34 pm - Mon, June 11 2012
judi uvick said:
Euell Gibbons is great ! Beg,borrow or (never mind) just get the book! He will "hold your hand "as much as much as you'll ever need.



08:34 pm - Mon, June 11 2012
judi uvick said:
Euell Gibbons is great ! Beg,borrow or (never mind) just get the book! He will "hold your hand "as much as much as you'll ever need.



03:39 pm - Mon, May 26 2014
Duane said:
Hello, I have a quick question..I was out hunting for the wonderful morsels and found a honey hole. Ibwas talking to a farmer and he told me that ibshould not be hunting for it and that he owns the land and the ditch adjacent to it. Is this true?

Thanks
07:33 pm - Tue, April 12 2016
Barbara said:
the only way I can describe it is this You take care of the sidewalk in town but it is owned by the city. You mow the grass in the ditch but the county owns it. It's anyones up to the fence
02:58 pm - Sat, April 23 2016
Steve said:
When a farmer buys land he actually pays for it up to the center of the road. But yes the bublic has use of the right of way on either side of the road.

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