Mountain walks and the treasures to be found
Asparagus and oregano
Easter, or Pasqua as the Italian name this festival is not just for the chocolate eggs so favored by children and the Religious Easter Processions, but also the time to wander in the mountains to gather the first wild asparagus and oregano.
The asparagus it not easy to view, and if you happen to be slightly colour blind this makes it much more difficult, this clever little plant hides in the rocky outcrops, and defines the most avid rambler to locate it. When located there is usually a few spears to collect and then onwards to find the next elusive batch. The children run around so fast in the open space they cannot possible see the asparagus, yet return with a grand handful eager and excited to show their haul. The view from the mountain top on these clear cool April days is stunning, no wonder the adult find less asparagus than the children. The breeze catches you unaware and the cow bells jingle in the distance and just for a moment your mind is clear. On returning home to prepare the asparagus, you break off just the tender tops of the asparagus, throwing away the harder lower stem. It can be steam cooked or gently in a little water, then replace the water with a freshly laid egg or two, for the most delicious omelet you have ever eaten, all from your own hands and hard work.
The oregano plant is much easier to find, you can smell the scent on the wind as you climb the mountain, it is like being in line for a pizza. Early morning is the best time to collect this offering from the mountain side, when the sun is not to hot. The plant is close to the ground but quite happy to show itself with little white fragrant flowers, usually once you have located one clump more and more around you appear as if by magic. Once you have wondered around collect the oregano for an hour or so, return home to prepare the plant for drying. Making small bunches by tying the stems together with string and hang them upside down in the kitchen to dry slowly, not in the direct sunlight as this will discolor the oregano. You can also put a couple of stems in olive oil to fragrance the oil. Once the leaves have dried out (approximately 3 / 4 months), rub the oregano between your hands over a tray to collect the dried herb, store in a bottle with a screw top and this will last you for up to a year, whilst you are doing this the kitchen or where ever you crush the oregano will smell delicious.
Happy Cooking J