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Korenaar asparagus are the young shoots of the Ornithogalum pyrenaicum plant, harvested early in the season before the plant flowers. Korenaar asparagus grows in short, thin green spears, similar in appearance to regular asparagus. The head of the Korenaar asparagus looks similar to an ear of wheat, with the buds of many flowers at the tip. At this point, the shoot is harvested before it flowers. If left to flower, one spear can turn into a 2-foot-high stalk with many greenish-white, star-shaped flowers. The flavor of the Korenaar asparagus is nutty, earthy, and spicy.
Korenaar asparagus is available in the spring.
Korenaar asparagus are the stems of a perennial plant in the hyacinth family, Ornithogalum pyrenaicum. Although it resembles asparagus (Asparagus oficinalis), it is not actually closely related to it. Korenaar asparagus is known by a number of different names in Europe. Korenaar is the Dutch name for this plant, but it is also known as wild asparagus, Bath asparagus, Spiked Star of Bethlehem, Prussian Asparagus, and ornithgale.
Wild, rather than cultivated, foods such as the Korenaar asparagus tend to be high in nutrients. Many wild plants have high levels of vitamins, protein, and nutrients such as iron and calcium. Depending on where wild foods are harvested, they are also free of pesticides used to grow many fruits and vegetables.
Korenaar asparagus can be cooked in any way that regular asparagus can. Cut up into pieces and stir fry or bake in the oven. Korenaar asparagus can also be eaten raw in salads. The earthy flavor pairs well with nuts, mushrooms, and fish such as salmon. Wrap spears up in a moist paper towel and store in the fridge until ready to cook. They will keep for a few days this way.
In England, Korenaar asparagus is known as Bath asparagus because it grows around the city of Bath in the southeast of the country. Historians and botanists originally believed the Romans brought it there from mainland Europe a thousand years ago. However, more recently scientists have decided that this plant is native to England. Korenaar asparagus was traditionally a local commercial vegetable, though it is not as popular as it once was. The confusion around the name of this plant and Asparagus oficinalis may be because the ancient Greeks used one term to refer to all vegetables harvested as young plant shoots.
Korenaar asparagus is native to northern and western Europe. It grows in open forests and on the sides of roads in countries including France, the Netherlands, and England. In England, it grows most prolifically around the city of Bath, hence it’s traditional name in England, Bath asparagus. The distribution of Korenaar asparagus tends to be very localized because the seeds don’t travel far distances from the parent plant.