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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stalking the Wild Asparagus in Northern New Mexico

The other day someone mentioned that her young friends were foraging for fruit and wild veggies grown on public lands or from branches hanging over fences on public property. There's an app for that, did you know? Wildman Steve Brill leads foraging tours through Central Park in New York, but don't actually pick anything or you might get arrested.

So friend Betsy asked if I'd like to search for wild asparagus. Our first outing last week was a bust: we clomped around in a boggy area behind the Catholic church in a local town, but someone had been there before us. All we got was wet: it was a misty moisty morning.

The other day, though, we spent some time strolling along an acequia (water ditch) looking for the elusive wild asparagus. Betsy is an expert asparagus spotter and showed me how to find the tall stalks poking up from the earth. She is a relentless searcher and this time it paid off.

Wild asparagus grows along water sources or places that get some moisture: water ditches and fence lines seem to be the most likely spots around here. In the photo below, you can see the acequia just beyond the barbed wire fence. 

As luck would have it, we found a fair number of asparagus spears growing on the far side of the fence which required careful reaching. One would hold the fence wire up while the other forager reachedreachedreached until she could snap off those tender stalks. Since some of the spears were almost going to seed, we left those. We foraged until thunder and lightning and some big rain drops told us to cut it out.

Betsy and I divided up our haul and each left with enough asparagus for a meal and a promise to meet again next week to look for some more.

Tom said it was much better than the stuff from the store and yes, it was tender and sweet, just like he is ;).

Sauteed Asparagus With Garlic (Serves 2)


1 handful asparagus (it doesn't have to be wild)
2 T butter
1-2 cloves garlic


1. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add the asparagus and garlic.

2. Cover the pan, lower the heat, and cook for about 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Pick up a piece of asparagus from the pan and bite into it. If you can bite through but it's still just a little firm, it's done.

Promise to cook your asparagus just until it's bright green. If you cook it until it's a grayish green, then it will be like that canned stuff my mom tried to feed us.


  1. When I was a kid in northern Wyoming the whole family would forage for asparagus along the ditches. We would come home with grocery bags stuffed to the gills and spend hours freezing it. It was sooooo good!

    1. Marty52, for this surburban raised kid whose only foraging was in the SoCal orange groves, this is pretty cool. I never thought I'd have enough to freeze, but who knows?

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  3. If you cut it with a knife under the dirt, another shoot will come up. It's a renewable food source. My dad always said the wild was better tasting than the store bought... probably fresher. He hunted it along the roadsides, too. Sometimes tying a bit of cloth to the fence to find it again and again.
    Thanks for the fond memory!


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