One of our favourite walks in Devon was along the River Avon at Loddiswell following the line of the old railway track. If we went at the right time of year the air would be full of a rather pungent smell – that of wild garlic, otherwise known as ransoms or wood garlic, bear leek or bear’s garlic. Which, along with perhaps the better-known bluebells, carpets our English woodlands at this time of year.
The plant is very easy to identify by its smell, whilst its broad strap-like leaves have the same delicious combination of sweetness and astringency that make leeks, onions, spring onions, chives and bulb garlic so useful in the kitchen. You’re unlikely to confuse it with poisonous Lily of the Valley, Lords and Ladies ad Dog’s Mercury that like to grow alongside the wild garlic, but do take care when picking not to include any of these rogue leaves by mistake. Always wash your haul carefully when you get home and remove any leaves that lack the distinctive pungent garlicky aroma.
Although edible, the bulbs of the wild garlic plant are usually too small to be of much use. The pretty white flowers however, are perfectly edible although their opening is a sign that the plant is maturing when the flavour of the leaves becomes more bitter and the texture is tougher. The young leaves have by far the best flavour and at this time of year, when wild garlic is at its peak, you are more likely to find delicious tight buds than open flowers.
The season for wild garlic leaves is short – they’re gone by June – but they are one of the most abundant wild foods. Even so, it’s good practise as with all wild plants and fruits to take only what you will be able to use, leaving plenty behind for wildlife and other people. And remember that it’s illegal to dig up a wild plant without the landowner’s permission.
Wild Garlic Pesto:
● 120g/4oz wild garlic leaves, blanched
● 1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
● 20g/¾oz pine nuts, toasted
● 200ml/7fl oz olive oil
● ½ lemon, zest only
● 30g/1oz parmesan cheese, grated
● salt and pepper
Pick and wash the wild garlic leaves and blanch in a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds. Refresh in a bowl of ice-cold water and squeeze out the excess. Roughly chop. Add the leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon zest and grated parmesan to the food processor and blend. Season with salt and pepper. Tuck in and enjoy!
*Article from issue 64 of Bustle & Sew Magazine. You can find out more HERE*