Each year I delight in venturing into a little tucked away woodland area that is overlooked by the masses which makes it such a gem of a place and pretty fragrant too.
Yes! Whether we go in February or April each year the smell of garlic (a bit more like spring onions) fills the air as a carpet of wild garlic covers the floor. This year was no exception.
Me, Richard and Seymour packed a picnic and last weekend we headed out to these magical woods with a few ikea bags and a couple of poop bags for good measure! Wild garlic, known as ramsons, is a distant relative of chives.
It is native to and widespread across most of Europe being found in ancient woodland. It loves moist soil and is often associated with bluebell woods. Flowering before deciduous trees leaf in the spring, the flower stem is triangular in cross-section and the leaves are lanceolate shaped.
They appear similar to those of the lily of the valley, which is a poisonous plant, so be careful to check that it is garlic by breaking the leaves to release the familiar fragrance. And if in doubt…don’t do it.
When harvesting wild garlic look for plants on a slope or out of the way so humans and animals are unlikely to have trampled on them (or worst…). Keep the stems long by picking leaves far down, pick only the amount that you will use and wash them before use. You can dig the whole plant up, the bulb is singular (like a spring onion) and would not be used, but get permission off the land owner first and I wouldn’t encourage you to plant them in your garden or very quickly you will be overrun! Last year was the first time we actually picked the leaves for eating and not knowing what to do with them we simply blanched and then pickled them. We haven’t actually tried them yet so I couldn’t say if that was a good idea or a bad one. This year I searched around for a few recipes to use and found a 2 4 1 with this wild garlic soup with wild garlic pesto.
For the soup
- 50 g butter
- 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
- 300 ml hot chicken/vegetable stock
- 2-3 bunch of fresh wild garlic (depends how garlicky you want it)
- 2 tbsp double cream
For the pesto
- 55g wild garlic leaves, chopped
- approx. 75ml olive oil
- 25 g hazelnuts/pinenuts
- 25 g parmesan
- For the soup: melt the butter in a saucepan, add the chopped onions and cubed potatoes to lightly fry.2. Add the stock to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes (until the potatoes are tender). 3. Stir in the wild garlic leaves and cook for 1-2 more minutes. 4. Transfer the soup to a food processor and blend to a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the double cream. 5. For the pesto: put the hazelnuts, grated parmesan and wild garlic leaves into a blender. Blend, blend, blend, add the olive oil and mix well. 6. Serve the soup in bowls with the pesto drizzled over the top.
We made loads of soup so have frozen some and put the wild garlic pesto into jars to last. We had a really lovely walk in the woods. We were able to have a great afternoon walk, picnic, forage for some free grub and would you believe it we even found some galls (see last post). We saw and collected the marble oak apple and the artichoke gall so they now sit in my print draw reminding me of the adventure.