And I mean EVERYWHERE! I even spotted it in the Metro (the freebie newspaper available on public transport not the rapid transit system in the North East – although I have no doubt you would be able to view it from the windows on some journeys!) The Metro on Thursday featured a great recipe for Garlic Paste – which sounds like a pretty good pesto – they recommend putting it with pasta, cooking chicken or fish with it, or even mixing it with cheese for toasties! Anyway this is more or less what they suggested doing…
Whiz 2 handfuls of wild garlic leaves with a bag of spinach leaves, 3 tblsp pine nuts, 2oz finely grated Parmesan and gradually add 300ml good olive oil until it forms a kind of pesto-y consistency. I would love to have tried it, but I don’t have a whizzer, however it sounds very similar to the wild garlic and nettle pesto made by a friend of mine last year which was delicious (he used flower buds instead of leaves and nettles instead of spinach and called it Stinger Pesto – it went down very well!)
Wild garlic is a great starter for new foragers – it mostly grows by water, it likes damp and shady, its instantly recognisable by its fantastic smell when the leaves are crushed (or walked on) and from some distance away when the flowers are out. Its very easy to use anywhere you would normally use bulb garlic, chopping half a dozen leaves or so or a good handful of flowers to replace 1 bulb of garlic in any recipe.
Well, we are at the beginning of March – as I recall pretty near the start of the year, winter is just coming to a close…the media is running with headlines that we are having the warmest day of the year so far…that would be a headline if it was November or even September, but March?? Surely it’s not really news that it is warmer than January or February??
Anyway – rant over – this unseasonably warm weather has resulted in some brilliant very early foraging, before even the snowdrops have finished. The hawthorn leaves have already started to sprout – grab a handful and pop in a cheese sandwich adding a great nutty taste; wild garlic leaves are popping up in all sorts of places – around streams and ponds – it prefers damp growing conditions – use a handful wherever you would use bulb garlic; garlic mustard in the bottoms of hedges – pick it only in those areas not in the DPZ (dog pee zone); dandelions and nettles are both also coming up – nettle soup will very soon be on the menu for my lunch.
The bare ground along the banks of the river on one of my regular cycle routes has suddenly sprouted green!
Everywhere there is Wild Garlic coming through. You won’t smell it yet, you will have to wait until it flowers for that, but if you want to use it now (and are sure you can identify it and not mix it up with Lily of the Valley) then grab it by the handful!!
I picked some on my way home the other evening and we had fish pie with galic mash for tea. Garlic Mash its very easy to do, just boil your potatoes as usual, mash with butter and a big handful of roughly chopped wild garlic leaves. Delicious!
Walking along in damp areas you will very possibly come accross the unmistable smell of wild garlic now the flowers are starting to appear. You can gather either the flowers or the leaves for use in the kitchen. For instance, this evening, I gathered a handful of flowers, mixed them with a little salt, pepper and balasmic vinegar and threw the whole lot over some roasting veg and some sossys, in the oven for 40 mins – smells great, tastes great!
The flowers are also lovely added to a green salad, sprinkle the flowers in individually for a very lighht garlic-y flavour and scent.
If you find them in abundance, large amounts of the flowers can be gathered and frozen in bags or boxes, each time you need some garlic, throw in a handful of frozen flowers.