Pink asparagus of Mezzago is a local delicacy that brings together tradition and territory.
Pink asparagus of Mezzago is a special variety of Asparagus officinalis grown exclusively in Mezzago, a small town in Brianza in Lombardy. The first cultivation of this vegetable can be traced back to early in the last century when it was sold in the fruit and vegetable markets of Monza and Milan. Why is it pink? The color is due to the climate, the composition of the soil (characterized by large amounts of clay and iron-rich minerals), and the manual farming methods used to grow it. When the first shoots appear, little mounds of earth about 30 cm high are built around them so the asparagus can grow inside them. Dark tarps are then placed over the rows of asparagus so that the tips of their shoots receive just the right amount of sunlight. This guarantees that rose tinge that makes them so unique and intriguing.
Cultivation of this local delicacy is made possible through the hard work of a few small farmers who are helping to conserve biodiversity in the area. Mezzago pink asparagus is a perfect example of peri-urban farming promoting a diet based on high quality, zero-kilometer products. Ripe for the eating in April and May, this is when Mezzago organizes its Asparagus festival, where everything centers around this local superstar.
Asparagus is very versatile and can be prepared in a range of different ways. The most classic recipes see it cooked with risotto – with a splash of good white white – or with eggs on a bed of asparagus with a pat of butter. But it can also be eaten simply, boiled and drizzled with olive oil. It’s as much an ingredient of common cooking as of Michelin starred restaurants, and the chef Davide Oldani makes no secret of his high praise for the pink asparagus of Mezzago.
Asparagus is low in calories (about 29 per 100 grams), rich in folic acid (a B group vitamin) and asparagine, a substance that can help fend off fatigue. It also has antioxidants, and helps with water retention and detoxing the body.
Did you Know That?
In the year 2000, the pink asparagus of Mezzago obtained a prestigious Communal Denomination award, and a festival takes place every year right where it originated. This year will celebrate the 58th annual event, where plans include tastings of traditional recipes where the asparagus of Mezzago is the undisputed king. In the same historic setting where the short production process starts and ends, you can taste dishes like lasagna, pink asparagus wrapped in veal rolls, or homemade ravioli with pink asparagus cream. Even the dessert menu includes asparagus with chocolate and ice cream.