So it’s that time of year again and after many Hobbit style adventures into the wilderness through forests, over hills and into far away bluebell woods alas, Wild Garlic.
Now, this is the time to start foraging. Wild Garlic tends to grow in and around the bluebells so is very easy to spot. You want to go deep into an old wood and seek out the bluebells to find your garlic bounty. Roadsides are also a good place to find what you are looking for… you know the kind, old single track, have to pull over all the time roads, in the woods. The flowers are starting to bloom so another easy way to spot them is to look for small white petals and if that isn’t enough follow your nose, the smell of garlic is subtle but ever present.
So now that you have your Wild Garlic stash, you want to go through the leaves and wash them carefully with water and pat dry. Remember this is wild, so you have to share with the animals, no supermarket chemical cleaned herbs here. Keep the flowers off to the side as they make a pretty and edible garnish for soups, salads etc.
If, like me, you got a bit too excited and took a large bin bag full of the stuff and struggled to fit it into your fridge (sorry honey) then you want to start turning it into something viable and easier to store. Wild Garlic freezes well. It may lose some color and it will darken, but from frozen you can throw it straight into stews, soups, casseroles or anything you want to add a garlic flavor to. I like to puree batches of wild garlic in a blender and then freeze it so if I want to make a sauce or pesto I can just grab a small bag out and start using.
For the pesto you will need:
- handful of washed Wild Garlic leaves (15-20 leaves)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (experiment, use pumpkin seeds etc)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan (just broken up is fine)
- 150 ml of good oil (I used half olive oil and half rapeseed)
- small handful of parsley
- juice of half a lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
Truly easy to make, start by dusting off the blender you’ve got in the back of your cupboard. Place all your ingredients into your blender minus the oils and seasonings and blitz until all is broken up and mixed. With the blender still working, pour your oils in until combined. Take a spoon and have a little taste, not quite there? Then just adjust with salt and pepper.
This will make a small jar and last…well, not very long at all if your house is anything like mine.
Now it’s soup time and this is even easier. This recipe makes three to four bowls.
- large bunch of Wild Garlic (some reserved for the end)
- 2 medium potatoes (peeled and washed)
- 1 pint of veg stock (fresh or half a stock cube dissolved is fine)
- 1 large onion
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 tbsp of butter
- splash of veg oil
- 1/4 cup double cream
- salt and pepper to taste
You already have your Wild Garlic washed in that huge bag in the fridge (sorry again honey) so just grab a large handful and you are done. Peel and dice your onion nice and small, don’t worry about it being perfect as it’s going to be blitzed later. Take your peeled potatoes and do the same, chop up your celery and you are just about done preparing. See? I told you it would be easy.
Take a heavy bottomed medium pot and put it on a mid low heat. Add your butter and a splash of oil, remember oil for heat and butter for flavor. Add all of your chopped ingredients reserving a small bunch of garlic for the end. Mix everything together for a few minutes until the onions start to go translucent but don’t color. Then add your stock, put the lid on and turn down the heat, stirring every now and then until the potatoes are soft.
Next use a stick blender if you have it. If not, use the blender you made your pesto in, no need to wash out. Blend the soup together with that small bunch of garlic you reserved. This will add to the color of the soup and give it it’s vibrancy back. Stir in the cream. No need to pass the soup through a sieve as it will have a smooth and silky texture to it. Season to taste and pour into a bowl to serve. Put a spoonful of pesto on top, grab your favorite bread or crackers and enjoy.
We are so fortunate to share this planet with so many different and interesting ingredients. Many of us are lucky enough to live outside a city and close to nature. So please, when foraging be responsible and take only what you will use. Leave Mother Nature some so that you can return again. And hey, maybe introduce someone you love to share in this adventure next time.