Cooking With Wild GarlicPosted by Alec on November 20 2013.
Cooking With Wild Garlic – The History
We love cooking with wild garlic, it is a camping favourite and there is nothing better than cooking with food freshly foraged from the forest. Once upon a time it would have called it Ramsons, it has been collected as a flavouring for generations. Being one of the first wild foods of the season, means that it’s always a welcome one and as it is so delicious, it makes a perfect starter crop for a novice. Wild garlic has a milder flavour than the traditional garlics that we are used to seeing but can be used in much the same way.
Cooking With Wild Garlic – Season
Wild garlic lives out its entire seasonal span in a very quick burst at the beginning of spring, taking advantage of the early season sunlight before the trees above shade it out. They burst into action as soon as the soil starts to warm, growing leaves to collect energy and using that energy to set flowers. They divide the bulbs at the base of the plant and then die back, just as summer starts to get going. The garlic then remains dormant as seeds, or as bulbs, safely below the soil surface for the rest of the year.
Cooking With Wild Garlic – Habitat
Garlic is a common plant throughout the UK, less common in the Northern parts. It favours cool, shady, open woodlands and slightly damp areas, particularly look at river banks, ditches or just wetter depressions in the land.
Cooking With Wild Garlic – Identification
Wild garlic is easy to identify and you will probably know from the smell that you have the right thing. They look like classic Alliums, with narrow slim bulbs and long spear shaped leaves and have small white bell shaped flowers. It is unlikely that you will mistake another plant for wild garlic. There is one plant however, Lords and Ladies, which can grow in a similar environment. “Lords and Ladies” is poisonous it probably won’t kill you, but best avoided. Its leaves have a similar texture to Ransoms, but are clearly heart-shaped rather than spear-shaped. Make sure you can positively identify both plants, and that you sort your crop in good light but it’s more likely that you may collect a leaf or two in amongst what you collect.
Cooking With Wild Garlic – Legal issues
You can eat the whole plant; however the laws related to collecting wild plants are, with good reason, more stringent about digging up whole plants than collecting leaves from each plant. This changes based on where you are in the UK and who owns the land. Either way you should stick to collecting leaves and flowers – unless you have the land owner’s permission and you are sure you’re not in an area designated important for wildlife. Wild garlic is, however, common in most places and as long as the swathe is large, collect away, leaving enough to survive for next spring.
Cooking With Wild Garlic – Uses
Wild garlic leaves can be used in many ways, finely chopped and used as flavouring in any recipe that asks for garlic or chives. It can be used to make a delicious tricolour salad with tomato and mozzarella, as a flavouring for oils or as an ingredient for wild pesto. You can alternatively use the leaves to wrap meat or fish to protect them from flames.
Stuffed chicken breasts
My favourite wild garlic recipe is a simple BBQ option easy and simple to make at camp. Start by making a small pocket in chicken breasts, as if you were making a chicken Kiev. Next stuff the pocket with finely chopped garlic, mixed with salt and oil Sea salt in large crystal is good here it has a deeper flavour and looks impressive. You then wrap the breasts in thin slices of salty cured ham, and either wrapping those in Foil or using a Dutch or biscuit tin oven (I will do a whole post about biscuit tin ovens another time)
Wild Garlic soup
This recipe uses seasonal veggies from our allotment, and potatoes, but you can use many different vegetables, we often use leeks, broccoli of course onions and handfuls of wild garlic. I always use butter instead of oil, it makes for a sweeter soup.
It’s easy and simple to make, fry all the veggies in butter then add potatoes and stock, and leave it boiling over the fire for hours.
Images copyright net_efekt