Go into any wood that’s worth its salt during the spring and if you’re very fortunate you’ll find swathes of wild garlic for the picking, also known as ramsons, ramps, buckrams or bear’s garlic. It’s often found near bluebells and prefers moist soils and shady conditions wher it can flourish to its heart’s content.
What’s that smell?
You’ll more than likely wander past and think “Mmm whats that gorgeous deliciously-enticing smell?”, and when you look more closely you’ll see a carpet of verdant large soft pointed leaves and later in the season when it’s just passing its best there’ll be small white flowers too. I mountain biked the length of the South Downs Way last spring accompanied by floorfuls of the beautiful stuff, enough to take your breath away.
April is the peak time for this happy plant, go gathering and you’ll be rewarded with an ingredient so versatile that you’ll need armfuls of it. Wild garlic tastes similar to its everyday cousin but more subtle; you can wilt it and add to creamy mashed potatoes, omelettes, pasta and risotto. Stir it into mayonnaise for salad, or chop and serve with new potatoes, butter and sea salt. Try sautéed spinach and wild garlic with creme fraiche and lemon juice, or make an irresistible sauce for roast chicken by stirring it into the cooking juices with cream, butter, black pepper, lemon juice and salt.
You must always be vigilant when foraging, because wild garlic can look similar to some poisonous leaves such as Lily of the Valley. Check pictures of it really closely before venturing out and to be completely sure pick a leaf, rub and crush it and take in its strong scent, it’s unmistakably garlicky. If in doubt just visit a farmers market in the springtime and get it there, along with its seasonal siblings – beautiful new potatoes and spring greens.
Wild garlic is a member of the Allium family, which includes onions, chives and leeks and it’s the sulphurs in these foods that are thought to bring most of the abundant health benefits. Inflammation is reduced; unchecked chronic inflammation is a serious health enemy and plays havoc with gut and blood vessels. Eating wild garlic or any Allium will give cardiovascular, cell and digestive health a huge pep-up. In fact I’d need to write a whole new piece on this plant family to do it justice, but this is mainly about the wonders of the delicious wild garlic!
The simple things are also the most extraordinary things and only the wise can see them.