Spring: when the world around us shrugs off the layers of winter to reveal bright young shoots of life bursting forth from hedgerows and gardens, forests and fields. First come the snowdrops, fighting their fragile way through the icy soil, then the daffodils and the bluebells spread their vivid colour over the forest floors. While birdsong returns to the trees we are treated to some of the first arrivals of nature’s edible gifts as wild garlic starts to grow luscious green, in the valleys and shady spots of our ancient woodlands.
You’ll see wild garlic, or Ramsoms as it is otherwise known, growing in abundance below the trees, gathering droplets of spring rain. The season starts early in the year, as February turns to March the leaves are most delicious. Later, in April or May the vibrant green carpet begins to bloom white, star like flowers that are edible and look beautiful as a garnish. The arrival of the flowers heralds the final stage of the season as once they seed, the cycle ends, so to begin again the following year.
Rubbing the leaf between your fingers to release the potent scent of garlic is as much of a test as you need to know that you’ve found it – if you haven’t already detected the smell in the air around you.
Once you’ve gathered your woodland bounty, you will be impatient to put it to use. There is nothing quite like making a meal from your own foragings. Wild garlic is very versatile, being similar in flavour, if slightly milder than the cultivated bulb. It can be used in many ways, best cooked delicately like spinach but it can also be eaten raw in a salad or used in a pesto.