Friday, May 4, 2012

Foraging for Pungitopo

Ruscus aculeatus, Pungitopo in Italian, or Butcher's Broom in English
I love foraging in the forest.  Finding wild edibles is loads of fun.  So when my neighbor asked if I wanted to go in search of pungitopo, I said of course!  Ruscus aculeatus, pungitopo in Italian, or butcher's broom in English, is very common in these parts.  An evergreen shrub, pungitopo has small sharply pointed leaf-like protrusions from it's stem. Traditionally, dried pungitopo was placed in food stores to deter rodents.  It's name in Italian means "the mouse poker."  Those pointed leaf-like protrusions become very sharp when dried. During the Spring, the pungitopo grows new tender shoots which are gathered and eaten here by the locals.  

pungitopo shoot
The new shoots hide among the evergreen stalks of the mature pungitopo.  It's fun, but a bit prickly, to find the little treasures.  Every once in a while you find other treasures tucked in to the pungitopo, too, like this little birds nest!

Four tiny eggs in a nest tucked into the pungitopo.

Giovanna and her shadows. 

Orsetto, the wild pungitopo hunter.

So when you are out walking around the woods, a few flower pictures are bound to be taken...

Once back at home I washed and prepared the fresh pungitopo shoots for cooking.  Some of the younger shoots where a beautiful bright purple in color. 

Pungitopo before cooking.
I was instructed, by my neighbor, to boil the pungitopo until it was tender, and after it was cooked to add olive oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar. I tried a piece before cooking, it had a pleasant with kind of a nutty flavor at first, that gave way to a wicked bitter taste.  After cooked and covered with the oil, salt, pepper and vinegar the bitterness was greatly reduced and the flavor strong, but not unpleasant.  I served the pungitopo as a side vegetable for dinner.  I found mention of using pungitopo in risotto.  Personally, I think I would have found the pungitopo more enjoyable used as an ingredient in another dish, however my husband enjoyed it as a vegetable side dish.  

Cooked Pungitopo


  1. Oh my word, Orsetto is gorgeous. Is he a good boy?
    Is this the same as wild asparagus?
    Is this what I see people collecting on the sides of roads or in fields at times other than harvest?
    Sorry for so many questions. Thanks for doing this post!

  2. You finally got to go collecting like the locals! Knew you would! :) It looks yummy and you need to try it in risotto. I'm thinking how good radicchio risotto is!
    So Orsetto lives on...