Spring is well underway. It’s a great time of year and it brings tasty veg with it, some of my favourites like asparagus, jersey royals and purple sprouting broccoli. Spring is also home to those few weeks a year when you can get wild garlic!
Since I found out about it, every year I go and pick some. This weekend it was lovely and sunny and while up early walking Dexter the dog, I foraged for some wild garlic to cook with.
I’ve seen it being sold in green grocers this year, don’t waste your money! Just go for a walk in whichever woods are closest to you and the chances are pretty good that you’ll find some. Though if you’d really rather buy it, I’ll sell you some! Anyway, how to find it, you’ll know it’s there because of the definite garlicky smell that comes with it. Look for a covering of long green leaves, and later in the season there will be little white flowers too. The leaves are at their tastiest if you pick them before the flowers open, though it’s still alright to eat after, and the flowers are edible too.
Be careful when you’re out looking for it, don’t confuse it with Lily of the Valley, that’s poisonous! If you’re unsure just crush the leaves between your fingers and you’ll smell the garlic, if you can’t smell it, put it down! So, pick the leaves and, if they’re there, pick some flowers too. Don’t be greedy and take too much! The leaves won’t keep for ages in the fridge, so it’s best picked on the day you plan on using it.
It goes without saying, but make sure you give it a rinse under cold water before you use it! There’s lots of things you can do with wild garlic, whiz up the leaves with some olive oil and drizzle over anything, like roasted veg, pasta, salad, use it to dip bread in, and you can freeze the flavoured oil, it’s best done in ice cube trays then you can just pop it into a pan to warm up when you fancy it. You can also wilt the leaves like you would do with spinach. Or don’t cook it and add the finely sliced leaves and flowers to salad.
This time I opted to turn the leaves into pesto. Easy to make and it keeps in the fridge for a couple of days. It’s not an exact science, you might need to add a touch more oil or lemon or salt, just make it to your taste, but here’s the general gist for what you’ll need and how to make it…
2 handfuls of wild garlic leaves
1 lemon (you just need the juice so zest it and add that to something else another time)
1 handful of walnuts (or whatever kind of nuts you have, within reason, I’m not sure those chilli peanuts in the back of your cupboard would work!)
Extra virgin olive oil
(these clearly aren’t technical measurements, I did say it was the general gist of a recipe!)
Add a couple of tablespoons of oil, you might find you need to add more, just see how you go. Blitz everything, in a blender, with a stick blender, or in a mortar and pestle, to the consistency you like, adding oil as needed and seasoning to your taste. That’s it. I said it was easy!
Add it to pasta, on a pizza, use it as a dip, have it on a sandwich, use it however you fancy.