We are usually enjoying the aroma of English Wild Garlic (also known as Ramsoms, Buckram, Wood Garlic or Bear’s Garlic) in our arch by April. This beautiful and tasty leaf is a wild relative of chives but is more than a bit-player in cooking. Wild Garlic likes the damp, shady conditions of deciduous woodland, putting up leaves in early spring before flowering just as the tree canopy starts to shade out light. As with all wild food, clean growing conditions are a must and whenever we can get it we buy foraged English Wild Garlic from private woodland in Somerset.
In case you are tempted to pick your own, you must be sure not to mix it up with Lily of the Valley, which has a similar leaf but is highly toxic. Crush a piece of leaf between your fingers to release a distinctive pungent garlic smell to confirm you have the right plant.
Wild Garlic has an affinity with eggs, so works well in omelette or frittata. You can also chop it and add to a spring vegetable soup, wilt it in butter for a quick pasta sauce or make a wild garlic pesto. Do use any flowers along with the leaves as they not only look beautiful but also have good flavour.
Pasta with Wild Garlic
300g dried pasta (ribbon pastas or Spaghetti or Linguine)
80g (3oz) unsalted butter
2 handfuls of wild garlic, well washed and roughly chopped
Good olive oil and salt and pepper to season
Bring a large pan of water to the boil then salt the water well. With the water at a fierce boil, add the pasta and stir. Return the water to the boil and cook at a lively pace according to the cooking instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter gently in large pan and add the washed and chopped garlic leaves, salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or two then take the pan off the heat. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the water, and add the cooked pasta to the buttery garlic leaves. Mix in about 50ml of cooking water to loosen slightly. Serve with plenty of grated parmesan and some good olive oil to season.
This recipe works well with spinach or chard leaves too. You could use Asparagus or Hop Shoots instead so long as you blanch the vegetables first.