April to June is the time for fine bruscandoli dishes, when the young shoots of wild hops are in their prime. With their nutty, bitter flavour, they are perfect in frittata, vegetable soup, as pesto on bruschetta or with risotto.
The spring booster
Wild hops prefer cool and wooded areas or forest edges and grow throughout Central Europe. In northern Italy, wild hop shoots have been part of the traditional spring diet for centuries. They are said to have an invigorating, digestive and relaxing effect. Only the young shoots (about 20 cm) of the climbing plant are eaten; they are green, hollow inside and slightly hairy with reddish reflections. The leaves are not used.
Pick your own wild hops
The best time to gather the tasty and healthy wild vegetables is in the morning, when the meadows and forests are still wet from dew. My grandmother used to send us children out early, because, by so doing, the shoots stayed fresh. The shoots are placed in a basket or paper bag. In plastic they quickly develop an unpleasant smell. You can separate the shoots with your fingers or with a knife.
Prepare to cook
Clean the stems of any dirt and remove the leaves. Now dissolve a pinch of baking soda in a wide bowl of cold water. Carefully toss the wild hop shoots in the water. Then dry and boil or fry as desired. Insider tip: season blanched wild hop shoots with salt and vinegar and enhance with roasted pancetta. If you don't prepare the shoots right away, put them in a glass of cold water like cut flowers. They will keep for a day if placed in a cool place.
Wild Hop Shoot Risotto
- 50 g butter
- 1 onion, small
- 300 g rice, risotto rice
- 100 ml wine, dry and white
- 1-1.5 l stock, vegetarian
- 400 g wild hop shoots
- 70 g Parmesan, cheese
- 50 g mascarpone, for the mantecatura
- Peel and finely chop the onion and sauté in half the butter until translucent. Add the rice, turn repeatedly at low temperature and let it soften a little. In the process, the rice becomes tostato (“roasted”). Add the white wine. Increase the temperature and reduce it again only when the wine has evaporated.
- Now pour the stock into the risotto, ladle by ladle, stirring constantly. This process takes about 17-18 minutes, depending on the type of rice (follow the instructions on the packet).
- In the meantime, prepare the wild hop shoots as described above. Roughly chop half of them. Blanch the other shoots in hot salted water for 1 minute, then turn them in a pan with hot butter and a pinch of salt and set aside.
- After the rice has cooked for about 8-9 minutes (about halfway through), add the chopped bruscandoli to the rice. Finish cooking the risotto, stirring, until it is cooked but firm to the bite.
- Remove the rice from the heat, cover and let it rest for a minute. Now mix in the mascarpone and Parmesan. Mantecatura is the technical term for creaminess. Season the risotto with salt if necessary and serve with the bruscandoli tossed in butter. Season with pepper to taste.