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Foraging For Wild Garlic

This is the time I start to think about picking wild garlic (Ramson) and it is possibly one of my absolute favourite things to forage. It has a long season of around 4 to 5 months, so you don’t have to rush out and start picking. It has beautiful white star shaped flowers in the summer that are also edible. Wild Garlic generally found in large colonies and wooded areas in carpets of lush broad green foliage that you can smell long before you can see it.


wild garlic

NOTE: Always take great care to ensure it is garlic leaves, and not lily of the valley leaves you have picked, as lily of the valley is poisonous. But don’t despair or be afraid to forage as although they do look similar there any similarity ends.


Wild garlic of course has that unmistakable mild garlic aroma, and if you tear the leaf or rub it between your fingers you will immediately smell the wild garlic's amazing scent. Lily of the valley has little to no aroma to its leaves. Secondly wild garlic leaves emanate singly on their own stems, whereas lilies of the valley grow two leaves on each stem. So, once you are armed with this knowledge there is nothing to fear.


WILD GARLIC FOLK LAW

Wild Garlic is often called Bear Garlic as it was thought that bears, badgers and wild boar would eat it as it appeared early spring to regain strength after the long winter hibernation. In Ireland it was planted in the thatch of cottages to ward off Fairies and to also bring good luck. Soldiers preparing for battle would chew wild garlic to give them strength. Wild garlic is also known as Dorset’s Devil’s Posy, which naturally being a Dorset girl is my favourite name for it.

 

APOTHECARY

Wild Garlic is very much like the cultivated garlic we buy in the supermarket. It’s packed with antioxidants and immune boosting powers. It lowers blood pressure and helps prevent arteriosclerosis.


Ramson eases stomach pain, aids digestion and can be used for colic, indigestion, wind and loss of appetite. It cleanses the blood and intestine and is great for the gut flora, all those little gut microbes just love it!  As it boosts the immune system, it is great for skin conditions like eczema and acne. The juice is used to aid weight loss. In an infusion it can be used for thread worms.

 

 

CULINARY

When I pick wild garlic, I like to wander amongst it and take a little for here and a little from there, never stripping or devastating an area. So, when I leave with my bounty, I can glance back, and the area looks as untouched as when I first arrived. Its beautiful mild flavour is just exquisite and once I have gathered my wild garlic leaves, I scurry home to prepare it.


I wash my wild garlic leaves in cold water and let them drain in a colander. Some I chop and freeze in ice cube trays. Packing the chopped garlic in tight and then adding a few drops of water or alternatively olive oil and the freezing. Once frozen I pop them out and toss them into a freezer bag dated and labelled. And I love to just grab a couple of the cubes to pop into a soup of casserole.


Every year I make wild garlic butter and roll it into a sausage shape with cling film and freeze it so that I can just cut a slice off when I need it, putting the rest back in the freezer for another day. Its wonderful melted in a pan with freshly picked French beans from the allotment, gently sautéed. Or a slice put on a freshly grilled steak where it can melt, releasing its wonderful gentle garlic flavour. Wild garlic butter when frozen is ideal for slipping into a pocket in a chicken breast, to make the most fabulous chicken Kiev.


A while ago I visited a rather lovely restaurant, where I had a deep-fried wild garlic leaf served as decoration on a dish and when I put it in my mouth it disintegrated, and the flavour was just wonderful. Something I will try at home to attempt to impress dinner guests!


Wild garlic is beautiful in a salad and really lends itself to sauces and risottos’ I really love to make wild garlic pesto as it's so quick and simple to do.  If you chop wild garlic and add it to an omelette or scrambled egg and you will really appreciate how its very delicate garlic flavour adds something very special to a simple dish.


I often dry the wild garlic leaves in my dehydrator and mix with sea salt to make the most wonderful garlic salt that I use throughout the year when cooking.


I love the book The Hedgerow Apothecary, recipes, remedies and ritual by Cristine Iverson, in that book there is a wonderful wild garlic pesto recipe that is not to be missed!

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Meet Sue & Katie

Two women. Two generations. Both mothers and lovers of the county where they live. Blogging about Dorset here at Dorset Country Life. Find out more...

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