Foraging always brings a huge sense of satisfaction, and Wild Garlic marks the start of the bountiful season of delicious foods to find while out and about in our woods, fields and hedgerows.
Everything is turning green again, the grass is growing, leaves are appearing on all of the trees, and down by the stream at the bottom of the farm the wild garlic forest has exploded into action.
Wild garlic, which appears in spring in shady woods and along hedgerows, is a wild relative of chives. It is a bulbous perennial, with long pointed oval leaves. Wild Garlic is often described as looking like lily of the valley – but its leaves grow from the plant base, whereas lily-of-the-valley has two or three leaves on its stem. The other most obvious wild garlic identifier is that it has a distinctive garlic aroma to its leaves.
Wild garlic is a fantastic food to forage.
The leaves have been used in traditional medicine to help reduce blood pressure, and it is a good source of vitamins including vitamins C and A, and containing calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and copper. Once you have confirmed that you have found wild garlic, and not a different lookalike plant, then you should forage carefully, taking one or two leaves off each plant.
Wild garlic is regularly used to create green pesto, in the place of spinach leaves; adding olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan to the leaves and then blending in a mixer. This pesto is delicious stirred through fresh pasta, and can be used in other dishes the same way that you would use other green pesto.
Wild garlic scones are a clever twist on a traditional savoury scone, fabulous warm with some cheese and chutney on them; they don’t take too long to make either which is a bonus. We used the National Trust Wild garlic and cheese scones recipe, altering the recipe and using an alternative to cheese and butter for a second batch to create a vegan version.
My absolute favourite though has to be the wild garlic soup.
An incredible colour, this soup was well received by our children, and by tweaking the recipe to include a sweet potato and to use additional wild garlic, rather than a combination of wild garlic and nettles as suggested, we created a vibrant and tasty soup! In hindsight it would have gone fabulously with the wild garlic scones….maybe I will make both at once next time!
Wild Garlic Soup
- 500g wild garlic leaves, you can substitute 50/50 with young nettle leaves for a less garlicy aroma if you wish
- 2 onions
- 1 small potato (or sweet potato)
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 carrot
- Vegetable stock, butter
- Cream (optional)
- Rinse your leaves, wearing gloves if you are using nettles and peel and chop the onion, carrot, potato and celery.
- Melt your butter in a large pan, and gently sweat them for 15-20 mins until soft, being careful not to have the heat too high as you don’t want them to caramelise.
- Add 1.2l vegetable stock to the vegetables, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic leaves, and nettle if using, in small batches, they will reduce in size as they wilt.
- Bring the whole mixture to the boil before further reducing the heat and simmering for a further 5 mins.
- Blend to your desired consistency using either a stick blender, or carefully pouring into a large blender, add salt & pepper to taste and cream if you would like to.
Keeping it simple you can use the wild garlic leaves in place of spinach in almost any recipe, within a salad or wilted as a vegetable side.