This is the perfect time to gather some spring greens and we start with a really simple one: wild garlic. It is abundant in our woodlands and hedgerows, easy to recognise and simply delicious. Also called ramsons or bear’s leek/bear garlic (literally the translation of its scientific name Allium ursinum – apparently bears are rather fond of its roots), it is often an indicator of ancient woodland, i.e. it grows in woodlands that have been established for more than 400 years.
Before you go out and pick any wild plant, you need to be familiar with its characteristics so that you don’t accidentally pick another, potentially poisonous plant instead. Wild garlic is easy to identify but grows in close proximity and in amongst poisonous plants, especially lords-and-ladies Arum maculatum (pictured left) and dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis (right). Wild garlic also has similar leaves to lily-of-the-valley Convallaria majalis although this is a very rare plant nowadays. Wild garlic has a very strong garlicky smell when the leaves are crushed.
It is easy to gather and the whole plant is edible but make sure you only take one leaf per plant and that you do not uproot it, so that the overall damage is limited. As always, take a few where there is plenty, although having said that, wild garlic mostly occurs in big, dense patches where taking some for your own use should not be an issue.
If you go foraging with children, make sure you are all familiar with the plants at the start (you could play a round of ‘You’re only safe if…’) and check what the kids have put into the basket before processing it.
Wild garlic pesto recipe
- 100 g wild garlic – washed
- 50 g parmesan, or two tbls of nutritional yeast as vegan alternative
- 50 g hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Olive oil
- Salt, pepper and lemon juice
Put the wild garlic, parmesan (or yeast) and nuts/seeds into a blender and start chopping. Add some olive oil and continue to blend until you have the desired consistency. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Done!
Your pesto is delicious on pasta, bread or anything else you can think of.
As always, please let us know how you got on! We would love to see your comments and pictures. Have you got a different recipe? What is your favourite use of wild garlic pesto.