Updated: Apr 15
Quite an aromatic and pungent flavour greets you in many of the woods around here at this time of year. The smell of wild garlic which is vaguely disorientating outside of a kitchen when you come across it deep in woodland. In the past I have made a pesto or thrown the leaves into a risotto or fried it up with gnocchi. This year I thought it time to try something new. It can be found from late March til May time and tastes better before the flowers emerge but the flowers are also edible and can be thrown into salads. The bulbs are apparently also edible but probably best to leave in the ground to grow back next year. You can also pickle the flower heads before they open. Riverford have a good recipe for this.
As well as pungent it is also very pretty and even more so when the white alium flowers emerge and the wooded floor is covered in a white carpet of delicate flowers, It is easily recognisable with it's sword shaped leaves and a quick sniff will tell you if you have found your plant.
Wild garlic is usually a sign that the woodland is an ancient one. Funny, it was never popular with my Grandmother and Mother who walked in the woods I find myself in around where I live but it has become incredibly popular again which is wonderful as it is so bountiful and local, and free of course. The bulbs were traditionally used for medicinal use as a key ingredient in a tonic for rheumatoid problems and high cholesterol. The bulbs attract bees and apparently wild boar though there are none of those left in the wild around here.
The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Great in a risotto or pasta dish You can use it as you would spinach and it makes a great pesto, so time to replace those plastic packs of imported basil and head to the woods. It's also very good for you, garlic has antibacterial, antibiotic and possibly antiviral properties, and it also contains vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and copper. Studies have also shown that it may help reduce blood pressure too so tuck in.
You can try growing it in your garden if you have the right conditions but apparently it is highly invasive so best grown in a pot.
Here is a recipe for wild garlic pesto is from Riverford
100g wild garlic leaves
50g hazelnuts shelled and roasted
a few splashes of olive oil
a squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper
Put all ingredients in a blender and whizz until you have a paste.
This year I thought I'd try something new so I started with a wild garlic salt, courtesey of my friend Adam Cawley. Simply dehydrate a large handful of young leaves, spreading them out thinly and heating in a warm oven. When dry grind the leaves and add 2 tablespoons of it to half a cup of course ground salt. I also tried an alternative to garlic butter by chopping the leaves and adding to butter and then freezing until you fancy some garlic bread..
Another idea is to use it to make pasta, this recipe is by Anja from Useyournoodles, click on the link for the recipe, but you get such a great flavour and colour with this.
It has been a year of discovering nature, so go and find some of those leaves and have fun