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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!