Wild Garlic Foraging: How To Cook It & Recipe Ideas
Wild Garlic is one of my favourite spring time ingredients.
This wild pungent plant can be whipped up into delicious Pesto or Soup and is perfect for adding a welcome dash of green to a variety of dishes.
As I write this post at the end of May, now is the perfect late Spring time to go foraging for this versatile ingredient.
Where to find Wild Garlic
Dense clusters of green leaves spear out the woodland floor in Spring, just like in the stunning picture above. These are Ramsons, better known as Wild Garlic. They are a sign that the woodland you are walking in is VERY OLD!
This wild plant gives off a strong, attractive garlic smell, which is unsurprising due to it being closely related to onions and garlic and similarly grown from a bulb.
If you're new to foraging for food, Wild Garlic is the perfect plant to start with, as it's very easy to identify and a very delicious ingredient. At this time of year, there's no need to buy bulbs from the supermarket as you can go out into any British woodland or riverbank and pick your own. (Please only take what you need though, don't over-pick).
Foraging can be easy and fun, but there are a few guidelines that you should follow to help protect the natural environment and prevent damage to the plant or fungi species.
Here are a few key foraging guidelines below to help you forage responsibly...
- Always seek permission before foraging - Plant species may be protected in certain areas, so it's best to do some research and check with the landowner before you start picking.
- Only pick from areas that have plenty of supply - Look for the areas where you can find the Wild Garlic in abundance and only pick a small amount for your personal use. Never completely strip an area as this could damage the species and prevent pickings for other foragers.
- Leave enough for the wildlife and avoid damaging habitats - Many animals rely on plants for survival, so never take more than you plan to eat. You don't want to deny the wildlife from a valuable food source.
- Never pick protected species or cause permanent damage - Britain's Wild Plants are all protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), which makes it illegal to dig up or remove a plant. So please check the law before you forage.
How To Cook It and Recipe Ideas
The leaves of Wild Garlic can be an excellent addition to a cheese and pate sandwich, or you can dig up the bulbs and use like garlic. The white flowers can add a beautiful edible decoration to most savoury dishes and the leaves can also be mixed with olive oil and pine nuts to make a delicious Wild Garlic Pesto or better still, a lovely spring soup.
I have experimented with a few recipes using the Wild Garlic and would like to share some of my favourite recipes below...
Wild Garlic Pesto
- 1 large bunch of wild garlic, washed.
- 1 small bunch of curly parsley, washed.
- 60g of pine nuts, toasted.
- 60g of Parmesan.
- 150ml of extra virgin olive oil.
- 1 dash of lemon juice.
- Cracked black pepper.
Place all of the ingredients apart from the olive oil into a food processor and blitz for a minute or two, then slowly pour in the olive oil until blended. Pop it in an air tight jar and store in the fridge. I found that it keeps OK for a couple of weeks.
The pesto is great for dipping, spreading on a sandwich, mixing in mash or my favourite, stir it up with some spaghetti pasta, top with basic and sprinkle with Parmesan. Quick, easy and delicious!
Wild Garlic and Potato Soup With Croutons
This creamy wild garlic and potato soup is made even better with crunchy garlic croutons added to the mix.
- 50g butter.
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped.
- 500g Maris Piper potatoes, cut into chunks.
- 1.2 litres vegetable stock or water.
- 200g wild garlic leaves (or 200g of mature spinach leaves and 1-2 fat garlic cloves, chopped).
- 4 tbsp double cream, plus extra wild garlic flowers to garnish (optional).
For the croutons:
- 15g butter.
- 1 garlic clove.
- 1 tsp olive oil.
- 50g slightly stale, crustless, white country-style bread.
- Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions, cover and cook gently for 10 minutes or until very soft but not brown. If you are using the spinach, add the chopped garlic cloves and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the potatoes and stock or water, bring to the boil, then cover. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft.
- For the croutons, heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/ gas mark 6. Melt the butter in a small pan, add the garlic and olive oil and take off the heat. Tear the bread into little pieces, put them in a bowl and toss with the garlic butter mix. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until crisp and golden. Remove, sprinkle lightly with salt, then leave to cool.
- Roughly chop the wild garlic (or spinach), then add to the hot soup pan for 2 minutes or until wilted and softened. Let it cool slightly, then liquidise the soup in batches until smooth. Return to the pan and bring back to a gentle simmer. Stir in the 4 tbsp of cream and some salt and ground white pepper to taste.Before serving, swirl in a little more cream and serve scattered with the garlic butter croutons and a few wild garlic flowers if you wish.