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May 29, 2008 10:39 AM

ISO Wild Asparagus and Morels

I know there are postings on this board from the hearty souls who hike into the hinterlands with their rented truffle pigs and field guides, and I applaud the spirit of these good folk. But I'm not one of them. I'm not going to hack my way through bush with a machete and a fly-swatter risking the amorous punctures of west-nile carrying skeeters the size of helicopters for the bragging rights to exotic veg. I'd rather find reasonable purveyors I don't need a gps to get to. That being said, I looked for both of the above recently, and was shocked at the pricing. Twenty dollars per bunch for wild asparagus, and seventy dollars per pound for morels. This was at the Harvesy Wagon, a shop with the best produce in the city, with cashiers also well-versed in the field of mortgage brokering. Has anyone seen these goodies for more reasonable prices?

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  1. Farmers' markets are your friend. Right now there are lots of vendors selling asparagus; I'm not sure if any of it is wild, but I did see at least one heritage variety. Morels were around a couple of weeks ago, at I think about $40/lb. There hasn't been enough rain in the last little while to produce more, but I'd guess that they will pop up again when the weather is more cooperative. There are, in the meantime, other varieties on offer - I picked up some pheasant back mushrooms a couple of days ago, which I've been enjoying a lot.

    The markets in particular that I'm referring to: Riverdale (Tuesdays) and Dufferin Grove. Many vendors go to both.

    1. Asparagus is cultivated in North America, as it is indigenous to Europe and Asia.
      Morels may also be cultivated, but this year a large wild crop was prouduced locally.

      1. Most "wild" asparagus occurs on the shoulders of roads adjacent to long ago farm crops courtesy of birds and wind I would think, at least the ones my friends and I have encountered. That's not to say that you won't find them along trails and elsewhere. They can be located by waiting till harvest is over and then cruising the roads and concessions watching for the fern stage - the plant is very distinctive.

        The point of all this is that the lowest hanging wild "fruit", and therefore most available to vendors, is in roadside areas which are sprayed for weed control. There is also a swale usually present that may be treated for mosquitoes.

        That having been said, I eat both "wild" and fresh, locally grown where available and notice no difference - in fact I'm more likely to encounter a tough or flavourless stalk in the former. I'd search out a good field producer at your FarMar, Snarf.

        3 Replies
        1. re: DockPotato

          Thanks for the replies so far. Just for clarity, the 'wild' asparagus I'm referring to as a lighter green with stalks that are a couple of millimeters thick that lead into wider ligth green florets. Very different looking from green, purple or white asparagus.

          1. re: Snarf

            It may be from young plants, but still cultivated.

            1. re: Snarf

              I know the asparagus you are referring to. Kind of looks like small green wheat. The restaurant I work at paid $180 for a case of wild asparagus. I'm guessing there are 20 bunches in there, which would be $9 per bunch. I think $20 per bunch of wild asparagus is pretty steep, but then again you just can't find it at the No Frills.

          2. Cheese Boutique had (small) bunches of the wild asparagus last night at $12.99 each.

            1. Here's a photo from the Wiki entry

              It's a wild plant in coastal areas of Europe, but not here. Possibly cultivated here, or imported.