What better time to go foraging for wild garlic than in the May sunshine?
This adaptable plant has been a staple of the British diet since we can remember, appearing in ancient Irish legends and poems and it was even used in early Christian traditions and by Celtic healers.
Nowadays, far removed from the fairytales and physicians of time gone by, wild garlic is one of the most diverse plants used in cooking. All parts of the plant can be eaten – the leaves, stems, flowers, seeds and even the roots are edible!
Despite the strong fragrance when it is in the ground, wild garlic is actually much softer in taste than the supermarket garlic you are used to.
Alongside taste, the health benefits of wild garlic have been proven, it can improve blood circulation and digestion, fights off common colds, and boosts the immune system – what’s not to like!
As a herb it can be eaten raw e.g in salads and added to your favorite sandwich, or even drunk as tea or in olive oil.
If you are picking young garlic, the leaves are best eaten raw either in salads, pesto or hummus – simply put the leaves in a blender and add to your dishes.
The flavour is much stronger when the leaves are raw, similar to spring onion, but it doesn’t make your breath smell like traditional garlic cloves do – hurrah!
Online butcher Tom Hixson recommends wrapping your rack of lamb in the leaves before roasting, simply remove before serving and you have a beautifully garlicked roast without the mess of poking holes and sticking in garlic cloves.
You can also chop up and cook the leaves as you would conventional garlic.
Wild garlic flowers are edible but are best used for garnish or in salads.
Wild garlic bulbs make a wonderful alternative to pickled onions, simply pickle them how you would any other vegetable and they will be perfect after a month.
So how can you go about getting your hands on this wonderful plant? Well they are a great first forage as the distinctive pointy green leaves and white flowers are easy to spot – and they usually grow in large groups in older woodlands.
Why not have a walk through your favorite local woods or riverbank and if you can smell garlic you won’t be far from your first forage.
Be careful when foraging not to pick the roots as well as the plant, as you do need landowners permission for anything below ground.
Also beware that wild garlic can be confused for the poisonous Lily of the Valley, a simple test however is to tear some leaves and smell if the garlic scent is present – if not don’t eat it!