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Wild Garlic

Allium ursinum - Other names: Ramsons, Wood/Bear Garlic

Season: March - May

Wild Garlic in flower on a wet day in SpringWild Garlic in flower on a wet day in SpringWe blooming LOVE garlic with (almost) every meal, so it’s understandable that we’re also madly in love with Wild Garlic aka Ramsons and that I’d find plenty of uses this time to share with you! Good job you can’t smell us huh? ;)

 

How we benefit

Wild Garlic has many of the same benefits as cultivated garlic such as strengthening the heart and lowering blood pressure, though slightly lower in potency. It also boasts the same antibacterial qualities as regular garlic but the main reason we want it is the flavour!

 Wild Garlic beside a woodland path growing alongside bluebells, the two are often found together.Wild Garlic beside a woodland path growing alongside bluebells, the two are often found together.

 

Where do you find it?

Young garlic forming a welcome carpet of green in an otherwise empty wood early in March.Young garlic forming a welcome carpet of green in an otherwise empty wood early in March.Wild Garlic likes rich damp soils so is usually found alongside bluebells in a well established woodland or near the shelter of stone walls in an old garden - it does really well in a cemetery, but don't let that put you off. It’s often a surprising find, a discovery made with your nose before your eyes when, on an amble through budding/newly leafed trees and spring blooms, instead of a breath of crisp fresh air your nostrils are filled with the unmistakeably pungent aroma of garlic! There’ll likely be a whole sea of it, it’s prolific once it gets growing, of ribbed lance-shaped leaves followed later by pretty white flowers. The size of the leaves varies depending on the plant and where they are in the season, but are generally between a few inches to nearly a foot long.

The stunning flowers of Wild Garlic are also edible!The stunning flowers of Wild Garlic are also edible!While the whole plant is edible and the flowers do look spectacular atop your salad, think of the bees who are in more need of them than you at this time of year and there's the exciting prospect that every flower that goes to seed holds the potential for many more tasty plants next season!

If you’re willing to dig (and have the permission to do so) you are rewarded with a small edible bulb, and perhaps more familiar to us when thinking of garlic. The bulbs can be preserved in oil or vinegar and again might look the part, though again each bulb collected is one less plant to offer up the delicious leaves next year so perhaps just stick to collecting the leaves.

Like with most plants they’re better when young and tender, the older they get the tougher they’ll be and more likely to be a bit knarly having been nibbled by other woodland guests before you. 

 

Warning!Ramsons' poisonous look-alike Lily of the Valley - DON'T EAT THIS ONE!Ramsons' poisonous look-alike Lily of the Valley - DON'T EAT THIS ONE!

There are sinister lookalikes that share the woodland floor with the Ramson, most notably the highly poisonous Lily of the Valley. Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum) is also doing it’s thing in spring and young leaves might look similar to the untrained eye, so take care when gathering.

 

The garlic odour is the real key in safe identification here, if a bruised leaf doesn’t smell like garlic then leave it be, and perhaps go wash your hands.

 

Preparation & recipes:

Where do we start when there are so many options?

I started simple as always and shredded the leaves along with fresh parsley, coriander, and the first sprigs of lettuce from the kitchen garden pots and enjoyed a highly nutritious spring salad, with attitude I might add! The strong flavours went especially well alongside some lean sliced venison steak and a few home made chips for a healthy(ish!) light dinner. Needless to say with the strong garlic flavour you can leave off the sliced onion, so no tears either! I’m a terrible mess when cutting onions but Ryan says he’ll disown me if I start wearing goggles… :D

My salad - with attitude!My salad - with attitude!

See also our guide to making 'Ramblers Spring Salad' and what you might find as well as wild garlic.

Next we dusted off the BBQ to cook up some burgers and, since I was too lazy to be prepared enough to make a batch of soft rolls in time for dinner, I decided to pop them into simple bannock baps instead. Bannock is actually becoming a firm favourite of ours over soft rolls, and I really like the time saved by not needing to pre-rise and bake the bread for hours before hand. Adding some chopped leaves into the dough before shaping them gave the bread a lovely subtle hint of onion akin to chives. Check out our recipe for Bannock here for the ridiculously easy method. If you haven’t had a burger in bannock yet what exactly are you doing with your camp fire?

Also check out our Wild Garlic Naan bread recipe here>

Chopped Ramsons & bannock bread dough (flour, salt, water, mix...)Chopped Ramsons & bannock bread dough (flour, salt, water, mix...)

Wild Garlic Bannock Bread - makes a damned decent burger bap!Wild Garlic Bannock Bread - makes a damned decent burger bap!The bread experiment gave me another idea and I mixed some with softened butter to make a zingy garlic butter. Spread over wholemeal toast, Waitrose organic seed-and-oat-crusted wholemeal muffins on this occasion since they were what I had on hand, they made a delicious garlic bread to help scoop up dollops of veggie-lasagna. Mixed with bread the flavour seems somewhat toned down into a more subtle hint of onion, so if you’re a true garlic lover like us you might want to add a little actual garlic (dried or freshly grated) to bump up the mixture. It also freezes well so scoop some into moulds for fun and tasty butter portions for your BBQ’d sweetcorn later in the year!

Chopped Ramsons & butter softening in the sun for easy mixing...Chopped Ramsons & butter softening in the sun for easy mixing...

My star shaped wild garlic butter - because why not?My star shaped wild garlic butter - because why not?

Waitrose organic wholemeal seeded muffins, begging to be toasted...Waitrose organic wholemeal seeded muffins, begging to be toasted...

...the muffins buttered and transformed into zingy garlic bread....the muffins buttered and transformed into zingy garlic bread.Similarly it works nicely mixed with mayonnaise as a delightful fresh dip. We love it with red meats but it’s also great on the end of a dunked cucumber or carrot stick… See our popular Garlic Dip recipe to adapt here>

Tasty fresh Wild Garlic mayo/dipTasty fresh Wild Garlic mayo/dip

Wild Garlic leaves make a great stuffing - you'll have to make do with the 'before' photo though, sorry!Wild Garlic leaves make a great stuffing - you'll have to make do with the 'before' photo though, sorry!With clearly far too much garlic on hand I even crammed a few leaves into the cavity of our roast chicken (also works with whole fish!) either by itself or alongside the traditional sage and onion stuffing, with a tasty result – it was so tasty in fact I served up and had eaten it before remembering to take another photo of it, oops! (you'll have to make do with the raw before photo & use your imagination)

I wanted to try some as a pesto, and since I’ve not yet replaced my broken pestle, I cheated and bought some ready made! I suppose I could have attempted it in my mini-processor but the crushing action is apparently a very important factor, and, well come-on I already admitted I was lazy!

Wild Garlic pestoWild Garlic pestoIt was very tasty, though I’m not exactly the best judge of pesto and it’s many uses. We used it added to baked chicken, new potatoes, and a spectacular green crumb-coating for some baked salmon (mix the pesto with enough fresh or dried breadcrumbs to form a spreadable sticky coating and bake until lightly crisp).

If you fancy making some yourself the trusty folks at River Cottage have a popular pesto recipe: https://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/wild-garlic-pesto or if you’re as lazy as me take a wander around your local farmers markets or buy some online!

 Baked salmon with green crumb coating. It might not look much here I admit, but it was tasty!Baked salmon with green crumb coating. It might not look much here I admit, but it was tasty!

 

Eat In My Kitchen Wild Garlic Soup recipeMore Wild Garlic recipes from around the web:

 

Eat In My Kitchen has a delicious Wild Garlic soup recipe combining potato & cream which is well worth checking out.

 

Delicious Magazine featured a simple Filini pasta recipe with the other spring treat Asparagus.

 

Lavender & Lovage offer their 'Good Friday Pie' recipe incorporating Wild Garlic & Blue Wensleydale.

 

Omelette with Caerphilly & Wild Garlic recipe by The Happy Foodie.

 

So what do you think? Have you tried Wild Garlic? We'd love to hear from you, share your experiences in the comments below!

 

< Back to Foraging

More Wild Garlic by us:

Wild Garlic Dumplings

 

You might also like: 

Top 10 Foraging Cookbooks

 

 


Sarah is an artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more


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