By Ren Behan
Wild garlic might sound like a rare ingredient only used in posh restaurants, but it’s actually one of the most commonly foraged edible leaves and it can be found growing in abundance, in the woodlands, at this time of year. Wild garlic can also be known as ramsons, bear’s garlic or wood garlic.
I found lots of wild garlic last year during a guided walk in St Albans with The Foragers and Woodland Ways. Since then, I’ve been able to find it for myself. It grows from late winter until around the end of May. Towards the end of its season, it produces pretty, small white flowers. The flowers are edible, too.
Wild garlic is related to chives and can be used in the same way as you would use baby spinach or a delicate herb, such as basil. If you rub the leaves between your fingers you should get a strong smell of garlic.
The leaves are very delicate and only taste mildly garlicky. You can eat them raw, and are great when added to a big salad served with a plate of pasta or a lasagne.
If you are making a stir-fry for supper, quickly chop your wild garlic and add it towards the end of cooking. You could also shred the leaves and add them to a soup as a garnish, or to an omelette with herbs or even a quiche or savoury tart.
At this time of year, as spring veggies also come into season, I like to make a big pan of vegetable risotto, simply stirring some wild garlic leaves through at the end. Or, you could whizz the leaves up with pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil to make a quick wild garlic pesto to stir through your risotto or pasta dish.
You could also try adding some finely shredded leaves to some softened, fresh butter to make garlic butter, and use it spread over a pizza base or ciabatta for a milder-tasting garlic bread that the kids will really love.