A forager’s favourite, wild garlic makes a welcome addition to spring cooking and there’s a lot of it around at the moment. However, I’ve been to restaurants that focus on seasonal ingredients and it can have a bit of shouty presence throughout the meal – so it’s best to hold back as a little of it goes a long way.
We’ve been enjoying wild garlic from Hadley Woods, but I’ve been delighted to find it growing in our garden (although it can take over if we’re not careful). Snip off the leaves and flowers (also edible), but don’t pull it out at the roots as you’ll remove the bulbs and prevent it growing back. I might have to do that at some point, but try not to when you’re foraging in the wild. However, if you can’t see any flowers, double check that it is wild garlic by smelling it. It’s easily confused with lily of the valley which is poisonous.
Wild garlic pesto
It makes a wonderful vivid pesto, with spinach helping temper the strident flavour of the wild garlic. I used some rather special Greek olive oil, but good quality rapeseed oil would be just as good and give a more local flavour and, depending on what’s in the cupboard, pine nuts can be substituted by walnuts or sunflower seeds.
wild garlic leaves
pine nuts, toasted
parmesan cheese, grated
good quality olive oil
In a food processor, process equal amounts of wild garlic and spinach with a generous glug of oil. Keep the motor running while you add the pine nuts and cheese and another slick of oil. Finally, continue adding oil until the pesto is glossy and unctuous. Check for seasoning – it might need a pinch or two of salt. As well as being great with pasta, it’s an ideal dressing for vegetables, potatoes especially, or spread in a sandwich. It would also be fabulous swirled into pea or asparagus soup.
At the weekend we also used some wild garlic in a tasty frittata. In a large frying pan fry some small sliced mushrooms and left-over cooked potatoes cut into cubes. Once these have coloured up a bit, poured in eggs beaten together with cream, along with some shredded wild garlic leaves and leave to cook over a low heat. Once the eggs had nearly set, sprinkle with some cubed feta or goat’s cheese and pop under the grill to finish cooking the eggs and soften the cheese. Carefully slide the frittata onto a plate, garnish with a few wild garlic flowers and serve in wedges with bread and salad.
We’ve also been using wild garlic leaves like fresh herbs, torn and sprinkled over cooked dishes or in salads. It was also good stirred into a chicken risotto. The key is to go easy with it as, before you know, all you’ll be able to taste is wild garlic!