From March to July there’s really no need to shop for garlic. The wild variety (also known as ramsons) grows in abundance in the UK, carpeting woodlands and other shady areas throughout the spring and early summer. So, to enjoy this tasty spring treat, here’s our quick guide to harvesting wild garlic.
Pointed oval leaves reaching up to about 30cm grow one to a stem; these appear in early spring although you will usually smell them before you can spot them. Small clusters of white flowers, resembling a six-pointed star, bloom in April. The flowers are edible too but have a much milder taste than the leaves. Do not confuse with Lily of the valley – the leaves are very similar but the stems are slightly purple and the flowers are more bell like.
Pick them way down at the base but avoid unearthing the tiny bulb; we want plenty left for next year! Collect what you need and store either in the fridge or in some water in a windowsill. You can also freeze it to use later in the year, but the taste will become milder.
The stem has a pleasant chive like texture. Use scissors to cut them into 1cm pieces and sprinkle over your favourite dish. The stems are also a tasty addition to egg mayonnaise or mash potato.
The leaves can be added whole to a sandwich, burger or salad as an interesting alternative to lettuce.
The flower can be used in a garnish. Before blooming the buds are a nice peppery surprise.
Use a hand blender and add to mayonnaise or sour cream for a yummy dip. Wild garlic pesto is also a winner. Simply whizz up a large bunch of leaves with 60g of toasted pine nuts, 60g of parmesan and 150ml of olive oil. This tastes great with mixed with your favourite fresh pasta.
When simmered for about a minute, the leaves can be used as leafy vegetable. They reduce a lot in size however so make sure you use plenty. Chopped leaves can also be added to casseroles or similar in the last few minutes of cooking. Mix with butter and then smear it on to ciabatta to make garlic bread or gently fry with mushrooms or scallops – all three make a great starter!
Try it yourself
These recipes are merely a suggestion, so why not get out into the woods in search of wild garlic and see what you can come up with. Just make sure you’ve identified correctly and remember to always wash it before consuming.
Want to try this and more wild food? Contact us for a course.