Wild Garlic (aka Ramsons) And What To Do With It
“Last week I made the last wild garlic tart of the year. I do look forward to spotting the first leaves and taking full advantage”Letter from a friend
You may enjoy the visual treat of a sea of bluebells beginning to carpet a forest. And, at the same time (or slightly earlier – late February to early March) you may be unaware of a culinary treat growing up nearby – wild garlic loves the same moist soil and shady, newly green-mantled trees. Together with rhubarb and asparagus, wild garlic is, a harbinger of spring, of variety and abundance to come.
You can identify it by its smell and long pointed leaves (see the clip at the bottom of this post for how to make sure you’ve found the right thing if you are foraging – you don’t want to confuse it with the poisonous Lily of the Valley, or anything else which won’t do you any good). A rather easier solution is to buy them at farmers’ markets and local green grocers.
At the end of the season, in April, (when the leaves are past their best from an eating point of view) this garlic produces its own flowers, producing an impressive woodland carpet of white to rival the bluebells. The flowers (milder than the leaves) are edible, and make a beautiful garnish. They can be pickled in sugar, cider vinegar and peppercorns; use as you might capers, sprinkled over fish, salads, or as an exotic touch to Vitello Tonnato.
Wild garlic – beloved of bears
Wild garlic is also known as ramsons and broad-leaved garlic. Its scientific name is Allium Ursinum (literally bear onion) because brown bears seem to be partial. The plant is a close relative of domestic chives, and it’s indicative of ancient woodlands.
Once picked, what is the best way of keeping wild garlic?
Wild garlic leaves will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days, or in a glass with some water in the fridge for a little longer. Wild garlic leaves don’t freeze brilliantly, the delicate taste is lost and the colour goes murky.
You can buy wild garlic infused vinegar (or you could try making your own – follow a similar method to that used for rhubarb vinegar).
What can you substitute for wild garlic?
Use the same weight of parsley, and for every 50g/2 oz add two fat cloves of garlic.
You can do all kinds of things with wild garlic – but it’s much better cooked – here are some ideas:
- Remove stems and blanch it for a minute or so as you would spinach. If you refresh in iced water you will retain their emerald green colour
- Blanch briefly (as above), chop and serve with pâté and toast; try lining the terrine dish with very lightly blanched wild garlic leaves – take care not to over-blanch or the leaves will turn to sludge.
- Make a soup with some fried onion, cooked potato and vegetable stock. After simmering together about ten minutes, season, add the wild garlic leaves, blend, and serve, garnished with nigella seeds and crumbled feta.
- Add to potatoes and chorizo to make a frittata or omelette.
- Add to quiches and tarts: Frances Jones-Davis (see Welsh cuisine) advises: ” A tart made with a custard of cream and egg yolks, with good cheese and lots of chiffonade wild garlic in it is a delicious light lunch, addition to a picnic, starter. I usually make a buttery short crust with a bit of a cayenne bite.”
- Incorporate into onion bhajis, and serve with wild-garlic-added raita
- Or add to other dips
- Or to mayonnaise…or, an idea from Pete Biggs, head chef at Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara, Dubai, blend blanched wild garlic with rapeseed oil and use to make mayonnaise
- Mix in with fried bacon and serve with any grilled white fish
- Mix with cream cheese, add to croutons, and use to give a finishing touch to all kinds of soups – broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach.
- Incorporate into risottos
- James Mackenzie, chef at the Pipe And Glass Inn makes a black pudding and langoustine crumble with a wild garlic crust
- Rob Cowen, writing in The Telegraph, adds his to bubble and squeak
- make a hummous of it by blending together with broad beans and a little oil and lemon juice
- blend with basil, mint, capers, anchovies, a little coriander seed and oil and lemon to make a salsa verde
- add to a Shakshouka
- As they do at Richard Bainbridge’s Benedicts in Norwich; make a sauce of the wild garlic, and serve with grilled asparagus and frozen, grated Granny Smith apple.
- Paul Wedgewood, of Wedgewood The Restaurant in Edinburgh suggests pickling wild garlic in cider vinegar for three months, and then adding to a buttery sauce for halibut.
- He also suggests putting the leaves into a creamy risotto
- make pasta ribbons with 40g wild garlic (stems removed), two eggs, and 200g ’00’ pasta flour. Serve with white fish and spring onions.
- Use it to make wild garlic focaccia, as seen on the beautiful Twigg Studios blog.
- In Robin Gill’s wonderful book, Larder, he suggests serving chopped wild garlic with tagliatelle, brined courgette slices…marjoram, and basil.
- cut chiffonade, and sprinkle onto salads, in omelettes, mash into butter….and use in all sorts of things including….
- …..Ravinder Bhogal makes wild garlic bread using wild garlic butter: mix 100g of butter with 20g chopped wild garlic, zest of a lemon and squeeze of juice, and salt and pepper.
- Nicholas Balfe, chef-founder of south London restaurants, Salon, Levan and Larry’s uses wild garlic in a risotto with asparagus, peas, and Berkswell (or pecorino) cheese
- On the other hand, Gill Meller, of the River Cottage in Devon, serves nettles on toast with pollack, wild garlic and poached egg.
- Nigella Lawson suggests wilting the leaves in butter and combining with green beans
- Gary Foulkes, of Angler, says what grows together, goes together. Wild garlic overlaps with asparagus and morels by about two glorious weeks. They combine brilliantly to accompany turbot, also good this time of year.
- Or, you can make this pesto……
Saucy Dressings’ Recipe for Wild Garlic Pesto
- 90g/3 oz wild garlic leaves
- 30g/¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 450g/1 lb Parmesan
- 2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with 2½ tsp smoked salt
- 180 – 240 ml/¾-1 cup olive oil
- 20g/1 oz flat leaf parsley
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Blitz all together.
Serve as a dip, a sauce for fish or pasta, mixed in the chickpeas or cannellini beans, stirred into soups, add to dressings (especially good with tomatoes)….over potatoes. Nigella Lawson mixes hers in with boiled and buttered carrot batons.
If you make the stiffer version (less olive oil) you can serve it, almost like pâté, with toast or crackers.
The pesto freezes well (freeze into ice cubes), so you can try out all these ideas!