If you go down to the woods today…you may not yet be able to picnic, but could be greeted by the heady aroma, emerald-green leaves, and starry white flowers of wild garlic. Also known as ramsons, this delicious leaf is a wonderful ingredient for springtime meals.
An ancient woodland indicator, it likes shady damp spots and is commonly found across the UK. Long-known in folk medicine as being good for health especially after a long winter, it is reputed to boost the immune system.
If you are tempted to go foraging for the first time, please do get someone to show you or do your research – the young leaves of other inedible plants can grow nearby. Make sure the wild garlic is washed well, as it’s grown and picked where the wild things are! It is also good to forage responsibly so that the plants can regenerate, growing back year after year. Eatweeds.co.uk and the woodlandtrust.org.uk have helpful guides.
Some simple ways to enjoy are to whip up a speedy wild garlic pesto – a little goes a long way, and it freezes well too. Flavoured butter is easy to make, and very versatile on anything from the humble jacket spud to roast chicken.
Wild garlic salt is a great way to capture the fresh flavour of this early spring delicacy, and once made, it can be stored for several months. Use as a finishing garnish on a whole host of dishes, from dips and freshly baked breads, to platters of roasted seasonal veg.
Here are some recipe suggestions for dishes that really make the most of this seasonal star:
Roast squash and wild garlic risotto
This risotto pairs wild garlic with sweet roasted squash and creamy rice, adding in another woodland flavour with crunchy, mellow toasted hazelnuts. If you like, keep the skin on the squash; it is so thin you can eat it as it softens well as it roasts. See the full recipe here.
Wild garlic gnocchi
This is Riverford’s veg hack star James Evans’ favourite way to cook wild garlic. It may sound complicated to make your own wild garlic infused gnocchi from scratch, but it’s actually very simple and only uses a few ingredients. It’s delicious if you fry the gnocchi in some butter to brown them and serve with some herbs.
Potato and wild garlic cakes with carrot chutney
A fantastic brunch or light dinner, these potato and wild garlic cakes are served simply with watercress salad. Alongside them add a super quick carrot and apple chutney; sweet, tangy, flavoured with honey, cider, and warming spices, it may just become your new favourite condiment. Find the full recipe here.
Wild garlic and purple sprouting broccoli ragout
Coconut broth is used to cook nutty tasting wild rice and quinoa, with a seasonal pairing of wild garlic and purple sprouting broccoli: two of our favourite homegrown spring vegetables. Chickpeas also add extra protein to this hearty vegan dish. You can see the full recipe here.
Red pepper paella with wild garlic, almonds, and an olive and orange salad
Like a risotto, this is a dish of rice plumped with a flavourful stock and a splash of wild garlic. The fundamental difference is that you should leave a paella to cook relatively untouched. In an ideal world it will form a golden crust in the bottom of the pan as the liquid absorbs. The simple salad brings bright, sweet citrus and salty, tangy olives to the party. What’s not to love? Find the full recipe here.