If you go down to the woods today ….
You are quite likely to find a host of lush green edible leaves… and me picking them !
Wild garlic, a.k.a ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek and bear’s garlic has just started to spring up, an exciting sign that spring really is here.
Bears apparently like to munch on it when coming out of hibernation to help get their digestive system fired up which perhaps helps explain its Latin name of Allium ursinum (Ursa being Latin for bear). When foraging here in the UK it is most unlikely that you will need to fend off any bears whilst gathering your wild garlic ( though possibly you will me)! What you do have to look out for is mistakenly picking the plant Lilly of the valley, which looks similar, but is toxic. If unsure give the leaf a rub and you should instantly be able to smell garlic.
Other animals keen on it are cows which can be unfortunate as it then taints the milk. Naturally garlic milk would of course be perfect for making a delicious béchamel sauce… but less so when its comes to a nice cup of tea.
So excited was I about smelling, finding and picking my first basket of the season last week, that I took a bag with me on my job cooking in Herefordshire for the weekend.
Personally, when it is in season, I would quite merrily have it in most things including risottos, pasta, bread ( one of the recipes for this postcard), pesto’s and my personal favourite.. laced into scrambled eggs for breakfast. I did manage to restrain myself from putting it into everything for my clients though as showing diversity in the kitchen is always appreciated and expected in my profession.
I used up my bag on the first day but then discovered down by their river there was a carpet of the lovely stuff (and some amazing Jurassic era looking plants). If you are out on the hunt for it yourself you are most likely to find it in ancient deciduous woodlands, shady lanes, hedgerows, near patches of bluebells ( though they appear after) or dimly lit river banks. Failing that I saw some bunches at borough market, though at £1.50 for a tiny bunch it may be more cost effective to travel out to your nearest woods to try and find your own!
If you find wild garlic I think the best way to harvest it is to cut the leaves near the base instead of pulling up the entire root which will reduce the amount of plants available next year ( the plant reproduces through forming underground bulbs) and bring with it a load of mud. You can eat the bulbs but it is the leaves and in a couple of weeks the flowers you should really be after…
Once you have them back home wash the leaves well several times and depending on where I get them from I sometimes add a dash of Milton to the water to help get rid of any unwanted germs. You should check carefully through your stash before cooking and eating as it is easier to pick up other plants like ivy which you clearly don’t want to be eating.
When not cooking dishes involving wild garlic my other weekend food included an epic curry night ( I have found the best Kerelan curry recipe ever), rhubarb tarts, ice cream and a refreshing rhubarb, ginger and rosemary sorbet, roast beef – Hereford really does produce some fantastic meat, a whole baked monkfish with harrissa and zhoug, and the instgram star of the week avocado, ricotta, tahini, poached eggs with sourdough and chili flakes.
For this postcard I have included not one but two recipes as I would love you to eat lots of it, in lots of different ways before the short 6 week season flies by and ends. When the flowers are out don’t forget to try my fritter recipe from last years wild garlic post Deep fried wild garlic flowers. It is also worth keeping an eye out in the shops a little later on in the year for Cornish yarg cheese ( normally wrapped in nettles) wrapped in wild garlic leaves. I like to eat the two types side by side as its quite amazing how the same cheese can taste so different just from being covered by a few different leaves.
Every home should have : a river with banks carpeted in wild garlic in the garden.
Dishes with wild garlic : 7 ( at home)
I’m loving : local Herefordshire beef
I’m driving : a sporty Audi A5 and a Peugeot 208 ( less sporty)
Wild garlic pesto laced bread
Handful of washed wild garlic
100g freshly grated Parmesan
1 small garlic clove, crushed with a pinch of salt.
Juice and zest from ½ lemon
50g lightly toasted hazelnuts ( skin off)
150ml olive oil
Place everything except the oil in a food processor or NutriBullet ( the are amazing) ( no I’m not sponsored by them) and whizz up till smooth. Stir in the olive oil and season with pepper and possibly a pinch of salt (as the cheese is salty and the garlic had salt when being crushed, you may not need it).
For the bread ;
2 1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 tsp honey
250ml warm water
450g white bread flour (plus a little extra)
1 tsp salt
40ml olive oil plus a drizzle extra
Pre heat the oven to 180 °C fan.
In a jug mix the yeast, warm water and honey together and leave to stand somewhere warm for 5 minutes – it should start frothing.
In a big bowl mix the flour, salt and olive oil then pour in the water. Bring together into a bowl and knead for 10 minutes.
Leave to rise in a bowl covered with a tea towel for 30 minutes then gently fold in a few spoonful’s of the pesto.
Lightly roll out into an oblong 1 inch thick and transfer onto a lightly floured baking sheet or a piece of baking paper.
Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
Remove the tea towl and using your fingers make a few dimples in the dough, drizzle on a little olive oil and sprinkle with some salt flakes.
Bake on a lower shelf for 20 – 25 minutes ( it should be lightly golden and have a firm bottom) .
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before cutting into slices and serving. You can serve with the extra pesto to smear onto it or save the pesto to stir through pasta or risotto.
Wild garlic risotto.
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil plus a little extra.
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery , washed and finely chopped
300g risotto rice
splash of white vermouth
1 glass dry white wine.
1-liter of light chicken, game or vegetable stock ( hot)
100g freshly grated parmesan
zest and juice of 1 lmon
2 large handful of washed, roughly chopped wild garlic.
In a saucepan gently sauté the onion and celery in the butter and olive oil.
Once softened ( about 10 mins) add the risooto rice and stir until all coated and hot. Add the vermouth and wine and a ladleful of hot stock and stir.
Keep adding the hot stock one ladleful at a time, stirring and waiting for the liquid to be absorbed before you add the next one.
Once the rice is nearly cooked take off the heat and add the lemon zest and juice and 2/3 of the parmesan and some freshly milled black pepper.
In a clean pan fry the washed chopped wild garlic with a little extra virgin olive oil until wilted then stir this and any pan juices into the rice.
Check for seasoning and consistency ( you may want to add a little more hot stock) then serve straight away with extra parmesan on top.
Next stop …County Carlow .