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The Veneto (especially the provinces of Treviso, Vicenza and Padua) is the biggest producer. Bassano del Grappa, with over 100 asparagus farmers, claims the crown as the white asparagus capital of Italy. The season is in April and May, when it features on every menu (the classic dish is ovi e sparasi, or eggs and asparagus in Venetian dialect); some places offer all-asparagus menus. The nearby village of San Zeno di Cassola holds an asparagus festival at the end of April.

There are five different kinds aboard the Ark of Taste:

asparago di Cilavegna (Pavia, in Lombardy)

asparago di Mezzago (near Milan)

asparago di Zambana (Trentino)

asparago Montine (Veneto)

asparago violetto di Albenga (Liguria)

Some classic dishes:

asparagi alla rolantina: rolled up in prosciutto with cheese, breadcrumbs and butter, and baked

asparagi all'amatriciana: baked under guanciale and bechamel sauce

asparagi alla milanese: with butter, parmesan and eggs, and a fried egg on top

Even more desirable (but much much harder to find) is asparagi selvatici, or long, string-like wild asparagus; if you see people snooping around in fields and roadsides in early spring, that's probably what they're looking for. It's delicious on pasta or in an omelette, or in a risotto (good recipe here).

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: alino1955