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During the month of March, at a time when seasonal fruits and vegetables are scarce, wild garlic makes a welcome appearance. For a few short months its heady scent fills our woods and country lanes and provides bountiful pickings for discerning foragers. Wild garlic grows under similar conditions to bluebells, and the two are often found together, notably in the damp, ancient woods of eastern England. Luckily for us, the abundant, mature woodlands of the Chilterns’ Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty make prime hunting ground for this fragrant ingredient.
Immensely versatile, the easily recognizable leafy green herb is irresistible to chefs and home cooks alike, and should be picked before the leaves begin to rot away at the end of May. Unlike regular garlic, the bulbs tend to be too small to be of use, instead try to gather the stems and flowers, leaving the bulbs behind.
Despite the strong smell when found growing en masse, wild garlic is surprisingly mild to eat. The sweetly acidic taste is on a par to that of spring onions or leeks, and in terms of culinary uses the leaves are as adaptable as parsley.
Try blending it into soups and sauces, blitzing with olive oil before tossing it into dressings and pasta dishes, or even serving it as a vegetable. Towards the end of the season, you might like to deep-fry the flowers in a light batter using the same method as for courgette flowers. Wild garlic makes for a natural pairing with other spring pickings such as asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes. At the height of the season this wild gem can be prolific; and may find yourself with a lucky hoard. If so, try our easy pesto recipe and store in the fridge to enjoy for months to come.
Wild Garlic Pesto
1 large bunch wild garlic, washed
handful flat leaf parsley
100g toasted pine nuts
100g grated parmesan
juice of one lemon
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Chiltern rapeseed oil- approx. 200ml
Blitz all of the ingredients, aside from the oil, in a food processor. Once roughly smooth, start to trickle in the oil with the motor running until desired consistency is reached. If you plan to keep for longer than one week, use sterilized jars and top with a layer of oil. Store in the fridge.
Delicious served with pasta, gnocchi, as a salad dressing or accompaniment to Spring lamb or pan-fried fish.