Bruscandoli: A Very Tasty Quest

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bruscandoli in the Carso
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by Helena Zonta

As we’re slowly approaching summer and spring is in full bloom, I’m reminded that it’s also a special season in and around Trieste – it’s the season of bruscandoli, a wild plant growing amidst the short and spindly bushes of the Carso, from mid-March to the end of May or beginning of June. 

bruscandoli in a bush

Bruscandoli are the end tips of hop plants, and look a lot like very thin or wild asparagus. Picking bruscandoli is one of my favorite springtime activities, which combines my love of discovering interesting, local tastes with exploring beautiful landscapes. 

There’s nothing quite like procuring your fresh ingredients from nature directly, and the food always tastes so much better. Plus, with all the walking around you should work up a good appetite. 

bruscandoli in the Carso

Bruscandoli contain a wide range of vitamins, especially vitamin C, and are rich in minerals like zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and chromium. They have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, to aid digestion and treat various intestinal ailments. While very low in calories they are extremely healthy, with invigorating, refreshing properties; also considered excellent blood purifiers they are very beneficial for the liver. 

bruscandoli in the Carso

You have to use the bruscandoli as soon as you pick them, to fully appreciate their unique and particular flavor, which is quite bitter and hoppy. Their use is very versatile, and the easiest thing to do after you’ve picked them is to combine them with eggs, for a fluffy omelet or frittata. 

Put them together with pasta sfoglia and ricotta and you’ve got a delightful torta salata. For a typical seasonal favorite you can make a wonderfully creamy risotto con i bruscandoli

risotto con bruscandoli

My choice for a light and quick dinner is to cook them in a bit of butter or olive oil (you can add garlic if you like), and enjoy with some hard-boiled eggs, a selection of local cheese, very crunchy bread, and a glass of perfectly chilled white wine. My first choice is usually a crisp Ribolla Gialla from the Collio, but bruscandoli pair wonderfully also with a smooth Soave or a refreshing Custoza. 

For lovers of good food and beautiful nature, bruscandoli are a real treat, with many healing properties, so when you have a few hours to spare go to the Carso, start looking and cooking! 

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Helena Zonta
Helena is a writer, copywriter, consultant, and entrepreneur, with a wealth of experience in research, analysis and writing, communication, negotiation and mediation, international relations, project management, teaching and training, and business development. Among other projects, she worked for the United Nations, in Pristina and Belgrade, for several years. Following the birth of her two children, she went into private consulting. She divides her time between Belgrade and Trieste, and is at present writing two books about living in Trieste – one in English, and one in Serbian

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