Lucy Carr-Ellison & Jemima Jones
Wild By Tart
Why do you love wild garlic?
The first shoots of wild garlic emerge from the wetter areas of the woodland floor in the early spring, before the trees above have had a chance to shade out everything that grows beneath. By May, the shaded woodland floor is a shifting patchwork quilt of white wild garlic flowers and bluebells. The delicate newer leaves are the ones to pick – carefully so as not dislodge the whole plant.
Where do you buy your wild garlic?
We buy from Parkway Green in Camden Town, but you should be able to find it at your local greengrocers and Natoora.
What's the best way to cook it?
We love making marinades from it and whizzing it into pesto (which keep well in the fridge), or adding the freshly chopped leaves to spring soups, pastas, stews, salads and sandwiches. It’s also great whizzed into butter and kept in the freezer. To make a tasty marinade for white fish on the BBQ, blitz two handfuls of wild garlic, one of handful parsley, one handful of basil, the juice and zest of 1 lemon, 3 spring onions, 100ml of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of red chilli together in a blender. Score the fish and slather on the marinade. Allow it to marinate for a couple of hours before hitting the hot grill.
Acme Fire Cult
Where’s the best place to find wild garlic?
Growing up in Kent meant I had a good choice of woodland nearby so I could harvest the green leaves and white flowers. From the beginning of April until the beginning of June, the woods would fill with a heady aroma. Hunting and finding your own fresh garlic is best. Damp woodlands are the best places to hunt them down, but my closest spot these days is a north London cemetery. Otherwise, your local grocers should sell it.
And what’s the best way to prepare it?
Once picked, it stores well wrapped in kitchen roll in an airtight container in the fridge. There’s so much you can do with wild garlic: it’s really versatile. You can roughly chop leaves and fold them through salads or tortillas and omelettes; finely chop it into crushed or roasted baby potatoes; wrap them up with fish in steamed parcels; or use it to replace soft herbs or spinach. The flowers make attractive garnishes for spring dishes and later in the season, when the petals fall from the plant, you have the bulbils, which chefs often refer to as ‘ramson capers’. Preserve these in a pickling vinegar or brine for use throughout the year.
Have you got a favourite recipe?
I love making wild garlic, feta and hazelnut pesto. It’s great served as a dip for vegetables, or as a sauce for grilled fish or meat. Blend 400g of wild garlic leaves, 4 tbsp of feta, 2 tbsp of roasted hazelnuts 1 tbsp of crème fraiche (or greek yoghurt), 100ml of olive oil and half a lemon in a food processor, then season to taste. You could leave out the feta and serve with a ball of burrata instead – just drizzle the oil over for a striking finish.
How can you identify wild garlic in the wild?
You’ll probably smell it before you see it. Then, depending on the time of year, you’ll spot their beautiful dainty white petals (there are six petals on each flower) and their deep green, spear shaped leaves towards the end of the season. Just remember to only ever take one fifth of the plant – leave the majority to bloom, flower and continue for years to come. You can never be too careful when foraging, so never be complacent, and always double-check each plant is wild garlic, as there are similar ones which are poisonous. These do not smell like garlic, so they are easily identifiable.
Where can you buy it?
You can buy it online via Abel & Cole plus at smaller, local farm shops and farmers’ markets.
Tell us the best way to prepare it…
Give it a good rinse in cold water and brush off any dirt, and make sure you use the vibrant, green and healthy-looking leaves, not the wilted ones.
And any favourite wild garlic recipes you can recommend?
Wild garlic pesto is one way to enjoy the fresh, powerful flavours – at Native we use a mixture of nettles, wild garlic, hazelnuts, rapeseed oil and a hard cheese from Neal's Yard Dairy. It’s a quick and delicious way to enjoy with pasta or a bruschetta for lunch. A potato salad made with finely shredded wild garlic leaves and plenty of creamy butter is a great addition to any BBQ.
If you wanted to pick your own wild garlic, where in London would you suggest?
Try Springfield Park which is just north of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hackney Marshes. Otherwise, try the Hoxton Fruit & Veg Shop – it has everything.
Can you eat it raw?
It’s too strong to eat raw, so gently soften it in a pan to mellow the flavour. I like to blitz it through leek and potato soup right at the end with loads of black pepper. Serve it with a poached egg on top.
Inspired? Here Are Six Recipes To Try At Home…
Fresh Pasta With Asparagus & Wild Garlic
Salt Cod Fritters with Wild Garlic Alioli
Wild Garlic Risotto With Lemon & Ricotta
Lamb With Wild Garlic Yogurt & Flatbreads
Wild Garlic Crumbed Salmon
Fennel Sausage, Courgette, Pea & Wild Garlic Fusilli
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