How To Make The Most Of Wild Garlic Season
Andrew Clarke, Pilot Light
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 broad green leaves and stellar white flowers. From the beginning of April until the beginning of June, the woods would fill with a heady aroma of allium. The plant grows in abundance, for as far as the eye can see. 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 through salads or tortillas and omelettes; finely chop it into crushed or roasted baby potatoes; wrap 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
Adrian Martin, Wildflower
Are there different types of wild garlic?
There are dozens of very similar plants called 'wild garlic'. The one we see most commonly grows in woodlands as a floor covering of white blooms. The leafed cousin, ‘ransom’, is more of a hedge dweller and you will see its delicate blooming beauty lining the roads of England in late spring.
Is it possible to grow your own?
Wild garlic will grow well in gardens but can takeover if not trimmed to tame it. If you would like a crop for next spring, simply plant a few of the bulbs in a semi-shady area, water well and you will be rewarded next year. Be sure to pick your parent bulbs from a verge or hedge and not a protected forest or nature reserve.
Any tips for foraging?
When picking your wild garlic, be sure to only pick healthy, undamaged specimens and ensure to wash before using. Use kitchen scissors used to snip the garlic off at the base are the best. Ideally you would harvest garlic away from traffic and pollution for cleaner plants. Check that it is wild garlic by using the smell test: it is unmistakable.
Ivan Tisdall-Downes, Native
How can you identify wild garlic in the wild?
You’ll probably smell the wonderful aroma 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. Usually found under a leafy, damp woodland canopy in early spring, once you find a spot, you'll enjoy its bountiful goods year on year. 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 and 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 a great 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. You can make the pesto and freeze in ice cube trays ready to defrost for a weekday dinner. A potato salad made with finely shredded wild garlic leaves and plenty of creamy butter is a great addition to any BBQ.
Lucy Carr-Ellison & Jemima Jones, Wild By Tart
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 jarred 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 for whenever you need a good hit through the rest of the year. To make a tasty marinade for white fish on the BBQ, whizz 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 to marinate for a couple of hours before hitting the hot grill.
Patrick Powell, Allegra
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 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 with a poached egg.
Inspired? Here are five more recipes to try at home…
Wild Garlic Risotto With Lemon & Ricotta: Danilo Cortellini, MasterChef: The Professionals
Fennel Sausage, Courgette, Pea & Wild Garlic Fusilli: Gizzi Erskine for ZENB
Wild Garlic Crumbed Salmon: Nitisha Patel, award-winning chef & food consultant
Lamb With Wild Garlic Yogurt & Flatbreads: Yeo Valley
Fresh Pasta With Asparagus & Wild Garlic: Daylesford
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