Gathering and Using Wild Garlic
Foraging and Uses for Wild Garlic
It certainly feels like Spring when your neighbour knocks on your door with the first of the seasons foraged wild garlic. That's what it felt like this morning. The sun was shining and Mike, smiling, handed me a bag of green gold. It wasn't even 9am and he had already made my day.
Wild garlic sometimes goes by the name of ramsons, ramps, bears garlic, buckrams, bear leek, broad leafed garlic or wood garlic. Whatever the name you know it as, it certainly is a delicious herb.
Foraged food is bang on trend at the moment and it graces the menus of many of the finest restaurants. It makes sense to eat seasonal and local - and free. Wild garlic is one of those ingredients that you would be hard-pushed to find in the supermarkets which makes it extra special. Whenever you make a meal with wild garlic, you know that you've brought a little bit of wild magic into your way of living. Some things simply cannot be bought.
Wild garlic is plentiful in early Spring and is one of many free foods available to gather from the British countryside. It can also be found across Europe and in Maine, US. I am hoping you will tell me if it grows near you.
The leaves, the bulbs and the flowers of the wild garlic plant can be eaten. The leaves start to appear from early March whilst the white star-like flowers are from April through to June which marks the end of the growing season.
Part of the chive family, wild garlic has a mild garlic flavour and oddly doesn’t taste as strong as its aroma. If you plan to cook with it, the leaves can be chopped and added at the end of a dish, to preserve its flavour and freshness. Try adding it to risottos, stir fries or soups – or use as you would fresh herbs.
Used raw, as with any herb, the leaves can be used in salads, made into pesto, stirred into a raw cashew mayonnaise or tree nut cheese. I’ve even fermented wild garlic leaves before and added them to sauerkraut. The leaves can be made into wild garlic oil or vinegar.
The bulbs can be eaten, although they can be fiddly to prepare. They are lovely pickled.
The flowers can be used to add a mild garlic flavour to salads. They are very pretty - just don’t use them as a garnish for a dessert - they will spoil your lemon cheesecake.
If you plan to gather it yourself, it grows in damp moist woodlands and in shady hedgerows. If you know where the bluebells grow, then you will undoubtedly find wild garlic in the vicinity. It’s where the wild things are…
However, it looks a little like lily of the valley, which is toxic, but if you are in any doubt about it, one sniff will tell you all you need to know – when you bruise the leaf, wild garlic will smell quite strongly of garlic. In fact, you should be able to find it from a few yards away as there will be a whiff of garlic in the air and there will generally be carpets of it.
Always forage responsibly and check with the land owners, if it is not public land.
Once you pick the wild garlic, store it layered in damp kitchen towel and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.