A great way to preserve some of that aliumy yummy goodness! this is truly potent! mix with salt to make an all purpose seasoning for sarnies, eggs, tofu, pasta, whatever! add to other spice mixes instead of garlic powder or asafoetida such as peri peri or masala. mix with equal quantities of thyme, oregano, toasted sesame seeds and salt for a wild Zaatar. add to tempura batter to make your tempura speckled green!
Wild Garlic Powder.
preheat the oven to gas mark 3. wash as many wild garlic leaves as you want to use and pat dry with a clean teatowel.
put on a cooling rack in one layer in the oven and let dry (opening and closing the door of the oven helps regulate the tempurature).
once dry, grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder. make sure the leaves are well dry before grinding as they will become a paste and be careful not to burn the leaves because you do not want that bitter garlic taste.
store in a dry jar, keeps forever.
wild Garlic Salt.
Mix two parts fleur de sel or any other good, flaky salt such as maldon with one part Wild Garlic powder. easy as that!
Thought id try and make a wild version of one of my favourite, most satisfying and nourishing curries; Saag Aloo.
Saag Aloo is simply spinach and potatoes, this version replaces Spinach with the beautiful Wild Garlic that is popping up all around us. it is not a soupy curry and the key is cooking out the liquid with out the potatoes falling apart. A super cheap and satisfying meal, you have to try this.
1 or 2 onions, sliced.
two big handfuls of Wild Garlic, including the stems and well washed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
a thumb of ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp’s cumin seed
2 tsp’s coriander
half a small stick of cinnamon
1/3rd tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp garam masala
5 medium potatoes, peeled if you like (i prefer to with this recipe) and chopped in to 3cm cubes.
1. take the stems off the leaves of the wild garlic and finely chop. chop the leaves roughly
2. cook the onions on a medium heat with a good bit of sunflower oil in a heavy, lidded (with the lid off) pan for 15 mins until golden.
3. while the onions are cooking toast the cumin seed, coriander seed, cinnamon and nigella seeds in a seperate pan (toast the nigella seperately) until fragrant. grind or bash together the cumin, coriander, cinnamon (leaving out the nigella) and mix together with the turmeric and garam masala. now add the nigella seeds so they are kept whole. don’t be afraid of spices, dont worry about it being heaped or an oddly shaped tsp, get stuck in! just make sure to grind them finely.
4. when the onions are ready, add the Wild Garlic stems, chilli and ginger, cook, stirring, for a minute or two until it smells damn good and add the spices. keep cooking and stirring until the spices have changed colour and are threatening to stick. the fragrance should have elevated you to a higher level by now!
5. add the potatoes and stir to coat, add enough cold water to come up to no more than half way up the potatoes. season liberally, you want the spuds to soak up the seasoning. simmer with a lid on, checking the potatoes regularly. when the potatoes are just a tad underdone, take the lid off to start cooking out the liquid. when the potatoes are cooked, check for seasoning and add the Wild garlic leaves. stir (to help evaporate the water) and keep cooking until the Wild Garlic has got completely soft and there’s only a little liquid left in the pan. The potatoes should be falling apart on the outside and firm in the Middle. serve with rice or chapati’s.
later in the year i’ll be garnishing this dish with beautiful Ramson flowers that will soon be showing themselves, right now use coriander. then it will be perfect! enjoy. BMF
As i explore the paths, woods and banks of my new haunt in woodchester, familiarising myself with the land and finding spots i believe could hold a bounty in the coming months, i am on the lookout for the herald of spring. the newborn shoots of the stench of better things to come. the unholy pong to wake us up from our slumber.
i am of course talking about the incredible lifegiver that is WILD GARLIC!!!! FUCK YEAH!
i get incredibly excited about seeing this plant come to life. this is the first plant i learnt to forage by my stepdad and definitely the wild food i pick and eat most of when it is in season. seeing these new shoots tells me that soon the forest floor will be verdant green again. brimming with life and stinking like a guilty catholic priests pits. a true ally plant.
Allium ursinum, WIld Garlic, or what i call it, RAMSON!, seems to have come a little earlier this year. but i say that every year. it is a verdant green and quite unmistakeable, if in doubt, rub the leaves between your fingers and smell the aroma of a french nuns morning breath. this is the plant i would recommend to anyone scared of foraging, anyone who would like to get into wild food but doesnt know where to start. the only thing to be careful is that you don’t accidentally pick a few lords and ladies leaves which may be growing in the same area. if you see this plant, just move to a different spot as Ramson is so profuse. one tip i would say is if you’re learning a new plant, search it on google. it will come up with so many different pictures of the plant it will be easy to cross reference.
there are innumerable ways to use wild garlic and its different parts. heres a little run down:
Leaves: can be eaten raw sparingly in salads, wilted with a little salt and lemon juice for a nice side to a roast (beauty!) or cooked down to make fillings for pies, pasties etc. also a great use is to make Dolma, stuffed vine leaves, replacing grape vine leaves for wild garlic. John Wright has a great recipe for this in his foraging book.
Stems: i found i started to use the stems alot last year. if you pick the stems as far to the ground as you can, you often pull up the blanched white stem that lives under the ground. this can be used just as you would normal garlic and means now i will not buy any garlic for the next few months.
Bulbs: when i do pick bulbs, which is not very often as the leaves and stems provide enough flavour, it is usually to make a fancy pickled garlic. using half vinegar and water and heating it up with spices of your choice (think lebanese style with sugar or traditional dill and peppercorns or my favourite indian spicing with fenugreek, coriander, cumin, a little chilli. i would not reccomend picking bulbs so the plant is preserved for next year and because you can get all the garlic you need from the stems and leaves.
heres a coupe of recipes for the newbie to try and check out the next few posts on more refined ways of using this saviour of a plant.
Wild Garlic and Chestnut mushrooms on toast.
Too tasty and too easy!
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced thick
Big handful wild garlic, washed well and chopped roughly
splash white wine (optional)
Worcestershire sauce (veggie ones the best!)
tamari soya sauce or salt (tamari gives a great depth of flavour)
damn good bread
1. heat some sunflower oil in a frying pan til nearly smoking. add the mushrooms and saute on a high heat til cooked, keep it on a high heat, add the Ramson which will wilt with the water left on the leaves from washing. Meanwhile ,toast the bread. you can add a splash of white wine now if you want a posh brekkie (it really finishes the dish). wait a minute for the Ramson to soften its flavour and wilt then add a splash of worcestershire sauce and the tamari or salt to season.
2. serve on top of the buttered or oiled toast and garnish with roughly chopped parley. you cant get any better!
Wild Garlic Pesto.
every forager has their own version of this italian staple. heres mine. it lasts well, so make a big batch and keep it in the fridge to make simple pasta’s, toasties or garnish hearty soups such as ribollita. or just have it on the side of anything!
two handfuls of Ramson
two handfuls of nuts of your choice (pine nuts if you can afford them, i use cashews)
half a lemon, or to taste
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1. wilt one of the handfuls of ramson in the water you washed it in with a pinch of salt.
2. toast the nuts in a pan till golden, making sure not to burn. i find a tiny drop of oil helps toast the whole nut.
3. blend the wilted and raw ramson with the nuts or bash for a chunkier consistency (my preference) and add the lemon and and oil till its ploppy. season with a bit too much salt (as this will be used to season pasta etc.) and BOOM! Damn tasty!
i make a big batch of this every year to use in dressings and especially on chips
jar or bottle
lots of wild garlic
cram as many garlic leaves in to a bottle or jar that’ll fit in there and then fill with vinegar. leave for a month to infuse and then take out the leaves so they don’t go slimy. i like to finish this off by putting in a bottle with a single leaf in so it looks pretty on my shelf!
walking through a familiar meadow, i recently found a mass of brightly coloured wax cap mushrooms. these are incredible fungi, lighting the fields with colours of red, yellow, orange, sometimes green. They are the hygrocybe family (pronounced Hi-garoo-Sigh-bea, NOT!) and as their common name suggests they have a waxy look and feel to them with moderate to widely spaced gills and a hollow stem. they have wicked names; scarlet hood (red), parrot waxcap (green going into yellow and stuff), traffic light wax cap (you can guess that one).careful for the ivory wax cap which, because of its colour and size, can be mistaken for the poisonous baddie ivory clitocybe.
and the best thing about them is you can eat them. i love eating brightly coloured mushrooms, theres a brothers grimm part of my brain making up stories of what will happen and theres another part that just has a need for colourful food (in this three shades of brown cuisine world). however, wax caps tend to possess the taste of a light cottonwool breeze i.e. nothing. they do keep their shape and look fantastic added to mixed mushroom dishes especially when served to wary friends. this lack of taste made me wonder if i could add some taste to them as their colour is something to take advantage of.
so i pickled them!
Pickled Waxcap Mushrooms with mustard seeds and pink peppercorns.
the pink peppercorns add a great perfumed fragrance.
waxcap mushrooms (i won’t give quantities because it depends on how many you find)
black and pink peppercorns
brown mustard seeds
a few cloves
1. trim and clean up the wax caps and put aside.
2. preferably to pickle mushrooms you want to kill any germs on them. this is done by blanching them for a super short amount of time. it is important to only do this for no more than thirty seconds as the mushrooms will become soft and slimy. run under a light cold tap after to cool.
3. create your pickling liquor; mix water and vinegar together in equal ratio’s, add peppercorns, mustard seeds and cloves and salt to taste. bring to a boil.
4. while it is coming to a boil put your shrooms in your prettiest (sterilised) jar. when the pickling liquor comes to a boil and is seasoned well, pour the hot liquor into the jar to cover the mushrooms and close the lid. The heat of the liquor will seal the jar nice.
the wax caps are ready to eat after about a week when the flavours have melded but the longer you leave them the tastier they’ll be.
Free food is a joy. It’s an honest alternative to a packaged world and it connects you straight back to nature. You feel primal in a liberating way. Once it becomes a regular activity the cycles of nature become so apparent it’s enlightening. I truly believe as a race we have lost our natural instincts to do anything and once you start listening to your body and to nature you start to get some of this back. Our eyes can naturally tell the difference between 200 odd shades of green. Originally used to identify edible fauna. Now this part of our brain is primarily used for brand recognition! Run away!
Excuse me did I just let out a hippy fart? Right back to good food!
Beta vulgaris (it aint vulgar tho) or sea beet as the layman calls it is the ancestor of Swiss chard and perpetual spinach. It is hugely abundant throughout most of the year so long as you live by the sea! It’s looks like a the hard, northern cousin of baby spinach being thesame size but more rugged, in a handsome way!
It can’t be mistaken for any poisonous plants so it’s a good one for beginners or city folk. Hehe. The main thing you gotta worry about is dog pee as it’s often found on coastal paths. Use it as you would perpetual spinach and it doesn’t cook down to nothing like baby spinach. You can truly have a steady annual supply of greens from this beautiful plant. Get picking!
creamy sea beet and mushroom pasta sauce.
a perfectly simple delectable pasta sauce. Inspired by a recipe by Nic allan, head chef of star anise cafe.
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
three handfuls seabeet, roughly chopped
200g mushrooms of choice, sliced
little grate of nutmeg (optional)
pasta to match your personality (I’m a penne kind of guy but would recommend orzo, in which case cook like a risotto adding the cream at the end)
sweat the onion and garlic in a small pan on low heat til translucent. Turn the heat up and add the mushrooms, cooking for a few mins and then add the sea beet. Season well, stir, add the oat cream, bay leaf, thyme and nutmeg. Bring up to heat and turn off, leaving for a few mins for the sauce to infuse.
Fat hen! Sounds like a colloquial insult and pet name at the same time. It is! But it’s also a wonderfully abundant wild food source; Available most of the year and easily identifiable. I’d would definitely recommend it as a plant for a beginner although some nightshades do look similar which makes you feel like john Connor! Abit! Latin name chenopod
iumalbum, fat hen is the wild relative of cultivated spinach and like many wild counterparts contains three times as much b vitamins, proteins and calcium! Wild plants are always more nutritious because they havent been bred for their shelf life or size. Interestingly, chenopodes and oraches (ancient spinaches) are the same plant as that posh hippy staple quinoa! Stay tuned to see if I can harvest my own wild grain! Use fat hen as you would spinach: in salads, wilted, in a creamy pasta sauce.. You know how we roll! It is a little more bitter than spinach so be aware when using it raw. The stalks can be eaten in the spring and summer before they’re stringy and it’s just abit more effort to pick the leaves when the plants gone to seed. Pictured also is good king Henry, another relative and maybe even tastier. Enjoy and stop buying spinach for £1.50 a bag! Bmf