A spring walk along the Danube near Vienna lets you experience a forest with a combination of new leaves, blossoms and bare branches decorated only with clumps of mistletoe. The air smells moist, the ground is muddy, and there are snails crawling along the track. It’s a far cry from the dry, peppery eucalyptus scented forests of my beloved Sydney sandstone.
The oak and beech forest offers more promising things to eat than a eucalyptus forest though. People collect the leaves of wild bärlauch (bear’s garlic, or ramsons) and dandelions from the forest floor in spring. The name bärlauch, and the English name bear’s garlic, refers to the way that brown bears like to eat these plants just as much as we do. The other foraging opportunity in spring is for asparagus, and in other seasons there are bramble berries and nuts. I haven’t dared to pick wild ramsons based on a reading knowledge, but I hope to meet a fellow omnivore who has survived the experience to act as a teacher.
Luckily you don’t have to be a foraging expert to enjoy asparagus, or ramsons either for that matter. These delicacies can be found in restaurants too, and there’s nothing like a little exercise to stimulate your appetite. A pleasant walk along the Danube from Regelsbrunn to Maria Ellend should do the trick, and both of these villages are accessible on the S7 train line from Vienna. Maria Ellend is a larger town than the villages of Regelsbrunn and Haslau (which you pass through on the walk), and it boasts more restaurants. Der Pimpel restaurant is part of a winery, and has outdoor seating in a courtyard near an old wooden winepress. It’s the perfect place to sit on a sunny spring day.
The joy of visiting Der Pimpel in spring was their Asparagus Menu. There was an entree of cream of asparagus soup followed by your choice of main course. Inquiring about which dishes were gluten free I was pleased to discover the chef had heard of Coeliac disease (Zöliakie) and was able to advise me about what to choose. Unfortunately the soup was not gluten free, but it did look lovely.
The asparagus salad was gluten free, and beautifully presented. A combination of marinated asparagus, rohschinken (like prosciutto), and watercress gave it a great variety of textures and flavours.
The chicken, asparagus and ramson pasta was a heartier option, and it featured two spring vegetables. This spring produce, enjoyed in the sun, was a happy ending to a morning’s walk, and we didn’t even have to forage for it.
Ratings (out of 5 snorts)