I love wild garlic. Around this time every year, it carpets the woodland near my home in the Cotswolds - looks lovely, smells dreadful - tastes great.
And what's not to love. It is relatively easy to identify, you get to walk in the countryside to collect (assuming you are not ordering from your supplier), it is very prolific, and you have a superb, tasty ingredient at the end of your walk.
Late February is an excellent time to start thinking about Wild Garlic. Late spring is the best time to go foraging, but with our warming climate, you'll see that people are now out and about, collectin and using it much earlier in the year these days. Generally, the leaves appear in March and are definitely best picked when young. The flowers are edible too but steer clear of the bulbs – we need them to stay in the ground for more leaves and flowers next year!
The season is therefore usually March to June, with the flowers coming at the end of this time in May and June.
They can grow to a height of 45-50 cm.
Wild Garlic loves damp ground. So woodland floors are great, as are riverbanks (careful near that water!). If you know where your bluebells are, there is a good chance the Wild Garlic will also be in the area.
National Trust parks and gardens often promote when their wild garlic is out, Prior Park near Bath in the South West of England, have a Wild Garlic Month from 22 April to 21 May. They also have some lovely recipe suggestions to get you started.
Recipe wise, there are so many things you can do with wild garlic, but one easy thing that will keep it going throughout the year is to make loads of wild garlic butter and store it in the freezer. Or a vegan alternative, wild garlic puree. Check out our recipes below:
Wild Garlic Butter – large Handful of Wild garlic leaves blended in a food processor with a pack of butter. Roll into a sausage using cling film and store in the freezer. Great for finishing risottos, spreading on ciabattas, on boiled jersey royals etc.
Wild Garlic Puree – slowly cook a couple of thinly sliced large white onions in a splash of olive oil with a pinch of salt (a good 20 minutes on a low heat, no colour), last-minute add some big handfuls of the fresh wild garlic leaves and let them wilt slightly with the heat – blend while still warm into a bright green puree. Freeze flat in sandwich bags, you can snap bits off as and when you need it.
Pickled Wild Garlic Buds – you'll be able to pick loads of the wild garlic buds before they flower. Make a 'pickling liquor' with 2 parts vinegar, 1 part water, 1 part sugar, a good pinch of salt, and some whole dried spices like cinnamon, bay, mixed peppercorns, mustard seeds. Sterilise a Kilner jar, add the washed buds, and cover with the pickling liquor. Store in a cool dark place. Once opened, they should last a month or two in the fridge!
Do you have a favourite wild garlic recipe? How do you make the most of this fabulous ingredient?
If you are shopping rather than foraging, it is probably worth knowing that Wild Garlic is also known by other names. You may have heard of Bear Leek, or Ramsons, or maybe just the simple Broad Leaved Garlic.
Wild Garlic looks a bit like Lily of the Valley. But Lily of the Valley is poisonous so take good care. Pick a leaf, crush it and smell it. Does it smell of garlic?