Wonderful wild garlic was the subject of March's seasonal celebration; make sure you check out our video recipe at the bottom of the piece!
Glossy green carpets of wild garlic can be found all around the UK (and Europe) at this time of year. You’ll smell it before you see it, and what a treat it is to come across a shimmering patch of this garlicky gorgeousness!
Everything has been dormant through those long winter months. We wait in vain for some signs of growth in our parks, woods and fields, until it’s finally time to celebrate as the wild garlic bursts out of the ground. It’s one of the first edible things we can harvest each year after winter, and you can cook some wonderful things with it!
Wild garlic, or allium ursinum, has long and pointed bright green leaves, and a white bulb under the soil. It is native to Europe, and is traditionally called ramsons in the UK. It often grows in ancient woodland so if you find it then it could be an indicator that you’re standing in extremely old and special environment!
How do you find it?
There’s something really gratifying about gathering your own wild food. So grab a basket and get out foraging! If you head to an area where it’s known to grow (do some Googling), then you shouldn’t be looking too long before you find some.
Wild garlic is found in Spring in woody areas, often in shady and damp spots. They also say it often grows near bluebells! When you do come across wild garlic, it usually grows in large patches so you should be able to fill your boots!
Its oval, pointy green leaves are quite glossy and soft; grab one, give it a scrunch in your hand and then a sniff, and you’ll know if you’ve hit the jackpot as it is rather pungent stuff! Later in the season they also produce pretty little white flowers. It’s worth bringing a pair of gloves with you foraging or your fingers are going to smell like onions for the rest of the day.
Just be careful not to mistake your wild garlic for the poisonous Lily-of-the Valley. You can find plenty of pointers online for differentiating the two. Like we mentioned above, the smell of wild garlic is unmistakeable.
How to prepare it
When you pick the wild garlic, do so at the base of the leaves. Once you get it home, make sure you give it a good wash. Rinse well in a basin or bowl full of water, then allow to sit for a minute, allowing any dirt to sink to the bottom. Then you can simply pick handfuls of your clean wild garlic from the surface of the water. This method works well for washing any leaves and salads.
How to cook it
It can be eaten raw, in a salad for example, or chopped up like a herb. However the more cooking it gets, the more the flavour mellows. In its raw form it has a rather harsh garlickyness to it, whereas cooking transforms it into something deeper, softer and sweeter. Use it as you would leafy veg like spinach - in soups, risottos, sauces, doughs, breads, pastas etc!
Why is it good for you?
Friend of CED and expert nutritionist Emily Moreton, Thenutrinurse, told us why we should all eat plenty of this beautiful ingredient: "Wild garlic is a great source of vitamin A, important for the functioning of your immune system and keeping your skin healthy, as well being rich in vitamin C, needed for healthy cells, skin, blood vessels, bones, cartilage and aiding wound healing. Wild garlic also contains minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and copper. Furthermore, wild garlic is a prebiotic which promotes the growth of good gut bacteria."
What does it go with?
Wild garlic is certainly not a bland ingredient, so it brings flavour to things all by itself. For our special accompanying recipe we’ve made a simple but delicious wild garlic soup garnished with creme fraiche, Parmesan crisps and balsamic vinegar. We’ve also been blanching it before blending and adding it to gnocchi and pasta doughs to give them both a great green colour and a zingy extra level of flavour. It works beautifully when sautéed with other spring and summer vegetables like courgettes. The allium family and all of its oniony members are always cracking with cheesy things, so try mixing some into a Parmesan risotto or even a macaroni cheese!
What did you say?
We threw a question out to our followers on Instagram, ‘what do you like to prepare with wild garlic?’ 90% of you gave the same answer, and that was pesto! Wild garlic pesto packs a real punch and is an absolute crowd pleaser to serve with pasta. Just blitz up a batch, pop into jars, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful store-cupboard staple. You can make a very simple pesto with the wild garlic leaves, nuts (pine nuts/almonds/walnuts would all work), good extra-virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese.
We kept things simple this month and went with a beautiful soup that retains the essence of wild garlic, as there are very few ingredients in the recipe. The soup uses a little onion and celery for its base, and a few potatoes to thicken, but ultimately sings of the sweet, grassy and oniony notes of the star ingredient. The garnishes provide a note of contrast - saltiness and umami from the Parmesan, sharpness from the creme fraiche, and a fruity zing from the balsamic. Feel free to use as many or as few of them as you fancy!
To make a Parmesan crisp, simply grate plenty of the cheese onto some baking paper on an oven tray. Form them into small circles, then bake in a hot oven for around 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts, goes golden and bubbles. Take out of the oven and they will harden into crisps as they cool. We broke ours into shards to garnish the soup.
Watch the video guide for the recipe on our Instagram highlights: CLICK HERE
Wild Garlic Soup with Creme Fraiche, Balsamic Vinegar and Parmesan Crisps