The wonders of Wild Garlic, using the leaves, buds, flowers & seed.
So it's wild garlic season, and for a forager, it's one of the most loved of plants as it appears in the early Spring when nature comes out of hibernation, it has many uses, tastes delicious, and usually abundant. ( Hence not a good idea to plant it in the ground as it will spread!)
Well, for me I first came across it in an outer London farmers market many years ago and it wasn't till I saw it the next day in my local Dulwich woods that I was intrigued that something so wild could be sold in a market at such a gourmet cost. ( If you don't know, then you simply don't know!)
Anyhow, fast forward four years or so, I moved out of London and my neighbor dropped some wild garlic round and the rest is history! I now literally see it everywhere!
I started with making wild garlic butter. The magic of the wild garlic butter worked even at a dinner one night when my daughter smashed 2 bowls of peas as it simply had melted wild garlic butter in it. When the wild garlic tun to buds they can be pickled and great served on cheese boards, tapas boards, and salads.
Finally, when they turn to seed, they make the most beautiful wild garlic capers ( all of those recipes are in my book) the capers are one of my favorite ways of eating wild garlic. It's simple to make and is lightly garlicky so not overpowering at all. I love using the capers on whenever capers are needed from mayonnaise to serving fish. As capers are preserved in vinegar, they last all year round, they're amazing little salty, sour, garlic heart-shaped seeds that burst in the mouth.
This year I have made Wild Garlic salt and put it on everything. Literally, as it is mixed with Celtic salt, it is a great one to flavor savory dishes and adds color too which is a bonus.
The salt is a bright green salt that is handy to flavor eggs, pizzas, and wherever you fancy some mild garlicky flavor. It has some wonderful nutritional qualities and packed with phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and helps with immune, anti-inflammation and so much more. The fact it is a 'wild' food also means that it grows naturally in the wild with no pesticides and other chemicals to worry about.
Other ways to have wild garlic include pestos, scones, flatbreads, and anywhere where garlic is used. Wild garlic flowers add to a Spring look in salads with a peppery taste. I'm also going to try to make wild garlic oil and going to give Lacto fermenting a go too. I did try something which was quite fun and that is tossed together some minced beef & spring onion and stuffed them in wild garlic leaves. Very fiddly but delicious as the leaves turn crispy. Another wonderful canape-type recipe. Literally, wrap meat mince and secure with a toothpick then I baked them for about 12-14 mins till canapes were crispy.
Eating seasonally is a big thing for foragers and Springtime is full of herbs and leaves that are great for stirring up our body systems to wake us up out of winter sluggishness! Cleavers are the sticky buds that we often have on our clothes as kids, just a few stems of this infused in some water overnight provides some goodness that is good for our lymphatic systems! Nature is so clever.
Wild Garlic, Jack by the hedge leaves ( sometimes know as hedge garlic) are all spicy in nature so get our body systems going! Don't forget some animals and creatures come out of hibernation so rely on these herbs to get their bodies woken up!
I recently took part in a biodiversity digital festival called 'Wild Glades' that is linked to 'The Glades' shopping centre in Bromley. This was in conjunction with a Facebook community called Greener and Cleaner Bromley and beyond. It's a short clip of me introducing how to make wild garlic butter and a chat about wild garlic.
Have a dial-in to my video at the festival and hope you get inspired to have a lookout for wild garlic.
One word of caution as with all foraging, do check you 100% know what you are picking. Seek landowner's permission and do be careful not to pick the poisonous Lord and ladies which have similar looking leaves. With wild garlic, I would crush some leaves up in your hand and double-check the leaves smell of garlic. Never pick more than you need or dig any up! Foragers usually know the etiquette of looking out and respecting the land, so it's important to make sure there's enough out there for wildlife too and enough to re-grow.
Here's to a great Summer and all the lovely goodness that this season brings!