Wild garlic is now available- for free! You can get it from about April to June so although you may overindulge on it now, like other wild plants such as samphire, it is made more delicious by the very nature of its seasonal availability. You can forage for it in the woodlands, especially in places where it is quite shady. Allium ursinum – known as ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek, or bear’s garlic – is a wild relative of chives native to Europe and Asia.
(Wild garlic leaves and flowers: image credit Marcelle Rose Nutrition)
Wild garlic of course, doesn’t look like garlic and it is the leaves that you use. The taste of the wild garlic leaves is quite mild but the effect on your stomach can be strong, so it is best used cooked, not raw. You can smell the leaves from quite far and so they are easy to find. Be careful because often they grow with other leaves and grass which are not only unsavory but can be poisonous.
There are many ways to cook it but my favorite is the wild garlic and potato soup because it is healthy, filling and easy to cook. There are soups with just wild garlic in it but I find them too strong. I first learnt to make this soup in Devon, almost twenty-five years ago and this is it-
I tbsp oil or a small blob of butter for frying
1 medium size onion, chopped
400g potatoes, peeled & diced (occasionally I have also used carrots in this mix)
1.2 litres vegetable or chicken stock (I use organic stock cubes or Bouillon powder dissolved in water)
50g wild garlic leaves, shredded
Crème fraîche or double cream (or I prefer yoghurt) to serve
Wild garlic flowers (if you have them and make sure they are opened up, not closed)
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat the oil/butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and fry on a low heat for 6-8 minutes, until softened without colouring. Add the potatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Blitz in a blender or food processor until smooth, with flecks of wild garlic leaves. Reheat in the pan, seasoning to taste. Serve with a swirl of cream/yoghurt and garnish with a few shreds of wild garlic leaves and flowers.
The other way I have used them is to use them in pasta with a seasonin of chilli flakes, salt and shreds of garlic leaves fried in olive oil- heavenly! You can also make garlic leaf pesto but again I find that too much. In my opinion, you can need to use garlic leaves sparingly like you would coriander.
Shreds of wild garlic also work well in salads. Here I have used it in a raw courgette salad with a simple dressing of lemon, salt and pepper with olive oil.