Wild garlic season is knocking on, but there’s still plenty of it about, and it must rank among the most easy to distinguish of all wild plants. The swathes of wide green leaves and white flowers that cover woodland banks are distinctive enough, but if in doubt, you just have to rub it in your fingers and smell it.
I happen to think the flowers are the best bit (my mate Austin reckons they’re great fried in tempura batter, though I haven’t had the chance to try it yet), but many will disagree, citing the delicate, chive-like flavour of the young leaves. Whatever your opinion, there are three important things to know about wild garlic, also known as ramsons, or ramps if you’re from the US.
1. It keeps pretty well in the fridge.
2. You might as well not bother with the bulbs (and actually you’re not supposed to dig wild plants up anyway).
3. It seems to lose its flavour quite quickly with cooking.
With that in mind, here are my favourite things to do with wild garlic:
Make a risotto
The most important thing is to add it as late on as you dare. I tend to stir it in with the grated parmesan once I’ve taken it off the heat. Slice up a few more leaves to sprinkle on top.
Chop it up and put it in a sandwich
Sometimes raw is best. If you can find any unopened flower pods then these are especially good for a bit of a kick in a nice glazed ham sandwich.
Make a chorizo and ramsons omelette
Two eggs, full-fat milk (there’s a creamery in the village where E works, and lately she’s been bringing home bottles of old-school, unpasteurised stuff with the flecks of cream floating in it), chorizo and a big handful of chopped wild garlic.
Blend it with olive oil
People rave about ramsons pesto, but I’m not sure you need to complicate matters by mixing it with the pine nuts and herbs and stuff. Sometimes I slosh in a bit of balsamic vinegar, but that’s it. This is glorious spooned over pasta, and also makes rather lovely canapes to go with a good strong Martini. Just spread some of the wild garlic mix on some squares of crispbread, stick a slice of mozarella on top, and garnish with one of those peppy little white flowers.