I was brought up hearing about how my grandmother knew about all of the plants in the hedges and how they could be used to heal or nourish. Much of this knowledge, that our grandparents and ancestors further down the line may have taken for granted, has been lost or at least only preserved in sentimental tales of days gone by. There has been a resurgence though, in ‘foraging’ for food which, providing that it is done responsibly I believe can only be a good thing. Finding, gathering, collecting the food you eat connects you to it in a very fundamental way. Children find it exciting and it promotes an interest in cooking and ultimately eating delicious fresh, natural food.
Wild garlic, or Ramsoms is abundant in woodlands at the moment in the UK. It’s hard to miss if you take a walk, or more likely a muddy ramble, in a shady old wooded valley. Even if you can’t spot it immediately you’ll detect its pungent allium scent in the air. Later in the spring it will bloom into a carpet of pretty white flowers which can be used in salads or as a lovely garnish for a wild garlic dish. However, the flowers herald the end of the season so it’s a good idea to get your fill of the leaves before they arrive.
In my local area in Bristol I can find plenty of wild garlic, it’s so plentiful in fact that it would seem a shame not to make the most of it while it’s here – especially as it’s basically free food! And there’s plenty to go around as you don’t need much of it to add excitement to a dish. (Obviously make sure you gather from places where you don’t trample on other plants.) I’m not going to let you into my secret gathering spot though, half the fun is making the discovery for yourself!
I recently used a bunch of these vibrant leaves in a version of this tart from a previous blog recipe. I blanched the leaves, shredded them finely and added them to the filling with some smoked salmon. I think I’ll try another variation with some creamy, tangy goats cheese next time, in lieu of the salmon. I also love the idea of these wild garlic and cheese scones which sound so full of savoury, cheesy deliciousness, and a great thing to make with children after a woodland walk.
Another lovely thing is to make some wild garlic pesto that can be used in the same way as any other pesto, added to pasta, risotto, stirred into a hearty soup, drizzled on a salad or as a marinade to meat. It’s a special thing to have handy in the fridge. Every time you take it out you can proudly boast: ‘I gathered this, myself!’
Wild garlic pesto
100g wild garlic leaves
100ml olive oil
50g pine nuts
a pinch of salt
a squeeze of lemon
Blend the leaves with the oil and pine nuts then add the parmesan, finely grated, and seasoning. If you find the garlic taste too strong for you then you can substitute half of the garlic leaves for something like baby leaf spinach or parsley. You could also use walnuts instead of pine nuts although I personally find walnuts quite bitter.