I lived in Moscow in the mid-1990s and one spring week in the middle of those years I went on a camping trip with a small group of friends. Zhenya led us by rail to his southern Russian hometown near the Volga River. From there we took a bus to a summer camp that hadn’t yet opened for the season. He had arranged for us to borrow canoes that were totally disassembled when we took them from their closets. With the help of a childhood friend’s truck we got our gear down to the banks of the river. We assembled the canvas-over-steel-frame canoes that would have proudly crushed any flyweight, high-tech, modern camping gear. We pushed off into the river for many days of paddling and camping. We made our way forward with the help of the current, the breeze and pure muscle…like real voyagers.
On our second afternoon of paddling and lolling we set up camp for the night. Zhenya came wandering back through the bushes carrying with him a fistful of purplish wild asparagus and we added them to the other provisions that we had with us to eat. Like so many Russians, he has a MacGyver-like resourcefulness and can seemingly make things appear like magic. Asparagus had always been a delicacy for me. Their growing season is relatively short and they are very price sensitive. They are perfect – boiled, blanched, raw, roasted or sautéed with simple salt and pepper. To eat them freshly found from the ground for free was a sort of revelation. If I had eaten wild edibles before, the memory of doing so has not stuck like the image of those asparagus spears that afternoon. It was magical.
Courtney shares an incredible recipe for Roasted Asparagus Soup in The Soup Club Cookbook. How do you eat asparagus? Or do you have any foraging stories to share?