Wild garlic is shooting up all over the country right now. But how should we use it? Nick Baines has some suggestions.
Since Noma took the number one spot in The World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards in 2010, foraging has been brought to the fore. Many a chef and keen cook now dons a par of wellington boots and ventures out for some of nature's wild bounty. From March through until June, ramsons, or wild garlic as they are more commonly known, is one of the more easier wild foods to hunt down. You’re likely to smell it before you can see it.
“To find wild garlic look for sheltered light woodland near a source of water,” explains Mat Follas, forager and MasterChef champion. “The leaves are a distinctive bright green and have the unmistakable smell of garlic when rubbed.”
Hunting down and gathering your wild garlic is all well and good, but knowing what to do with it once your back in the kitchen is another matter.
Wild garlic has a much subtler flavour than your nose might lead you to believe. Finely chopping up its leaves and adding to salads in place of spring onion is a noble start - in fact, substituting spring onions for wild garlic in any recipe is a step in the right direction. You get that same allium characteristic but with a fragrant garlicy twang to boot.
Another great use of wild garlic is to make it into a pesto. Blend with rapeseed oil, a little parmesan and some toasted nuts and smear on chicken breasts or toss through your penne. You can see Mat's recipe here.
Spike your mayonnaise for a fresh, makeshift aioli or pep up some sour cream for your nachos or chilli. Infuse wild garlic into butter by running both through a blender and rolling tightly in grease-proof paper. This becomes a faithful ally in your fridge door and truly exceptional rubbed underneath the skin on a roast chicken.
“They have an affinity with tomatoes,” explains Richard Mabey in his timeless foraging guide Food for Free. “Take advantage of their size and lay them criss-cross over sliced beef steak tomatoes.” Another way to marry wild garlic off with the flavour of tomatoes is in a bright gazpacho - use it generously in place of coriander.
The plant lends itself incredibly well to soups, too. Simmer handfuls of it in chicken stock before blending to create an impromptu wild garlic soup. Indeed, chicken is a handsome suitor to wild garlic - make sure the two are well acquainted in your kitchen, and they’ll serve you well.
Keeping it wild
Whilst the game season has now drawn to a close, rabbit is still very much available. The subtle gaminess of a lean bunny braised slowly with white wine and a generous scoop of freshly chopped wild garlic is perfect for those chilly, fresh, but sunny afternoons during an early spring.
Do you use wild garlic in the kitchen and if so, how do you use it?
This is a classic lovefood article
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