Wild garlic – “it’s the future” as us folk from Bolton would say! So what do we know about it? Found in British woodlands and on riverbanks you will probably notice the smell of garlic in the air before you see it and may well have walked past dense carpets of wild garlic without realising it.
The garlic found growing wild is milder than traditional bulb garlic, yet still the leaves and flowers add a pungent flavour to dishes whether raw or cooked. The leaves are best picked in early Spring in the UK (March/April) whilst still tender. They should be washed well and dried (kitchen roll or salad spinner) and will stay fresh in the fridge for 3-4 days or can be frozen.
Wild garlic, AKA allium ursinum, ramsons, wood garlic and bear leek (because it is rumoured that European bears are fans of it), is thought to lower blood pressure and cholesterol so is considered a good tonic for the blood.
It certainly seems to fuel the creative juices as during lockdown I’ve enjoyed foraging from a plentiful supply when taking local walks. The ground rules of responsible foraging are not to stockpile more than you need for personal use, to leave behind plenty as a food supply for wildlife and to take care not to disturb or disrupt wildlife habitats. Luckily, a little goes a long way. Also when foraging watch out for the very similar leaves of Lily of the Valley which are poisonous.
Wild garlic is available in the shops when in season but there is something extra satisfying about picking your own, getting something for nothing, then returning home with your woodland bargain to conjure up pesto, salads, hummus, soups and scones. Try some of these ideas and get creative with your own …