Wild Garlic – Allium ursinum
February. The bright green tips of wild garlic are starting to emerge, one of my favourite foraged greens and a lovely reminder that Spring is on its way! All parts are edible – the leaves, flowers, bulbs and seeds. Many people know it as ramsons and I have also heard it called bears garlic: Legend has it that as bears awaken from hibernation they hungrily search out the bulbs, dig them up and feast on them to Spring cleanse their systems.
These first tips are the tastiest and the tenderest. They are delicious finely chopped and sprinkled into sandwiches, or made into wild garlic pesto (recipe below) As they mature I use them by the handful, in stir fries and with pasta sauces. Cooking them really softens their pungent garlic flavour and means you can use them liberally as a spring green.
To pick them just nip out the tips with your nails, or snip with scissors. The leaves will quickly regrow. I usually find them by the moist and shady banks of the river in deciduous woodlands, often in carpet like swathes and often alongside bluebells so take care not to accidentally pick bluebell leaves as you are gathering them!
The pretty white star shaped flowers also have a strong garlic flavour and look lovely sprinkled on top of salads or used as a garnish.
A wild Spring salad, from last May, with wild garlic flowers, honesty flowers, and a mix of foraged leaves.
The crunchy green seed pods can be pickled in vinegar. As the seeds ripen they turn black and become very hard, at which stage they can be ground in a pepper mill and used as a garlicky condiment.
I will be running a series of workshops using wild Spring greens, my next one is at the wonderful Small World Theatre in Cardigan on Saturday 19th April
Details of my workshops are on my website www.wildpickings.co.uk