Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Food for Free - Wild Garlic

It is a sheer delight when spring starts to make an appearance, and the wild garlic comes shooting through the ground in the lanes around Bridge Cottage. It is particularly in abundance under the trees and along the roadsides around Allen Banks, although I'm sure many of you will know of other places where it grows. It is typically found in sheltered woodland, often near a source of water, and can be recognised by its bright green leaves and pungent smell of garlic when walked on or when the leaves are rubbed. 

The smell of wild garlic for me, is evocative of when first I moved to Bridge Cottage, marvelling at the beauty of the countryside, with the strong smell of wild garlic wafting through the car window as I drove along.  The leaves appear first, closely followed by the delicate white flower, as seen here, and wild garlic, or Ransoms as it is sometimes known as, can be found growing from March through to June.

So what can wild garlic be used for?

Add a couple of good handfuls of wild garlic to about 200ml of olive oil, a handful of nuts (eg walnuts or pine nuts), 50g grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, and blitz in a food processor.
Add your pesto to pasta for a simple but tasty lunch, or rub onto chicken. Wild garlic and chicken go very well together.
I like to make several batches and freeze in small bags. There is nothing better in the depths of winter, than to go foraging in the freezer and finding little bags of spring wild garlic pesto to use for lunches.

Wild garlic leaves can be added whole to salads, or chopped according to taste. Use instead of spring onions for that mild, oniony taste, but with the added zing of a hint of garlic. They make an interesting addition to a cheese sandwich married with a touch of maynnaise and a slice of tomato. 
Salad dressing can also be made more interesting with finely chopped wild garlic leaves, or add to mayonnaise or butter. 

I his iconic foraging guide, Food for Free, written many moons ago, Richard Mabey tells us that wild garlic goes handsomely with tomatoes. I understand this must have book for any foraging enthusiast is about to be reprinted, and will definitely be on my Christmas wish list. Follow this link for more details Food for Free by Richard Mabey
Richard tells us to 'take advantage of their size, and lay them criss cross over sliced beef steak tomatoes'. I like to chop them finely and add to chopped tinned tomatoes for a quick and tasty tomato sauce that can go with pasta, or as an accompaniment to fish cakes.
Alternatively, make a simple tomato salsa, by chopping fresh tomatoes with finely chopped wild garlic, and fresh deseeded chilli, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Wild garlic can be used with young nettle tops for a healthy, delicious soup, or for the meat eaters amongst us, simply add to chicken stock and blitz for a delicious wild garlic soup.

So, with this in mind, I'm off to pick some wild garlic to use tonight in my tomato sauce.

Happy foraging, and remember, - it's free food! 

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