Spring is well and truly here now (in fact you’d be forgiven for saying it was summer already with the +20degree weather we’re getting!) and the wild garlic is out in full force across the country. It seemed to appear quite early this year, particularly in the south, but April is pretty much always the best month to gather it as the leaves are at their fullest, and there are a few flowers poking through that you can pick as a garnish with a kick.
I’ll acknowledge the elephant in the room – coronavirus. I realise that for a huge number of people, going for a leisurely walk to find a crop of wild garlic without having to get in your car just isn’t possible – it isn’t for me. For those that can’t, there might be ways of getting wild garlic without foraging. A number of farmers markets are still trading as usual and might have wild garlic for sale, and some independent food shops might sell it as well. Totally Wild UK are also offering wild veg boxes for delivery during lockdown as well which would be a great way to experiment with a few different wild ingredients.
Fortunately, Mark and I were able to gather some of the early wild garlic last month before a lockdown was announced. As beautiful as it can be when it’s used fresh in a salad, the leaves don’t last especially well and so I tend to preserve them in a couple of different ways which are all incredibly versatile in the kitchen. Plus I get to use my wild garlic all year!
Wild Garlic Butter
Take 2 large bunches of wild garlic and chop as finely as you can. Mix as much as you possibly can into a softened (not melted) 250g block of butter (I tend to use unsalted so that I can season it to my taste) and spread onto a layer of beeswax wrap (or cling film). Roll into a sausage shape and put into the fridge to set. Once hard, slice into rounds and freeze.
Ideas for using your wild garlic butter:
- The easiest way to use the butter is simply to defrost and spread on a cheese scone or toast to give it a beautiful garlic flavour.
- I love to get a baguette, slice halfway through at inch intervals along the length of the bread and pop a half-round of wild garlic butter into each opening and heat in the oven to make a homemade garlic bread baton.
- Use in place of butter in savoury bakes – especially scones!
- Drop onto cooked peas for a punchy side dish.
- Melt over a perfectly cooked steak and serve with chips!
- Melt into milk when making potato dauphinois.
Wild Garlic Oil
Blend wild garlic leaves in a food processor with just enough oil so that they don’t get stuck. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.
Ideas for using your wild garlic oil
- Drop into sauces towards the end of cooking to infuse them with fresh garlic flavour.
- Use as the base for a hummus and mix with chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and salt until you get the desired flavour and consistency.
- Add a little more olive oil and drizzle over freshly baked focaccia.
- Use as the base for wild garlic pesto (see below).
- Stir in some more oil and a generous squeeze of lemon juice for a wild salad dressing to pour over watercress with steamed asparagus, sprouting broccoli, peas and a sprinkle of garlic flowers and pickled fennel.
Wild Garlic Pesto…Obviously
Take a generous handful of wild garlic leaves and blend together with a tablespoon of pine nuts, a tablespoon of Parmesan, a pinch of salt and the juice of half a lemon. Then add enough olive oil to get the consistency you would like.
Ideas for using your wild garlic pesto
- The obvious one – stir into pasta!
- Dollop into a chunky soup.
- Serve with roast lamb.
- Spread onto a slice of sourdough, top with cheddar and toast in the oven until the cheese has melted.
Hopefully that has given you some inspiration for this year’s wild garlic season if you manage to get out and forage, or source some another way. I’d love to hear what other ideas you have, so feel free to post in the comments!