Margaret Atwood wrote, 'In Spring, at the end of the day you should smell like dirt'. With this sunny weather I am inclined to agree with her! Spring sees the start of our foraging year as the tender shoots of wild garlic starts to push their way through the sweet smelling soil.
Where we live wild garlic also known as ramsons grows abundantly in woodlands and on roadsides, you often smell it before you see it. It starts emerging around this time of year as small green shoots and by April the shoots has formed green carpets with white flowers, like in the picture above. It's worth noting that when picking anything from the wild it's really important to get the landowners permission and to follow the foragers code (below).
Wild garlic has a milder more gentle flavour than the farmed garlic bulbs we buy in supermarkets today and is incredibly versatile to cook with. We usually pick a handful of leaves and blend it with pine nuts and olive oil to make pesto that we store in jars in the fridge. Last year the boys made 'green' spaghetti by blending some wild garlic leaves and adding it to the ingredients to make home made pasta. They love using the pasta machine to roll it out, and to make it bright green gives it an added fun element too.
If I can find any wild garlic this week, I'm going to try and make a wild garlic focaccia. Using a simple white bread recipe and following all the instructions, before baking I'll push down the dough into a square or oblong oiled baking tray, so there are a lot of fingerprint dimples all over. Then I'll blend five or six leaves with a really good glug of olive oil and pour all over before baking. Focaccia is delicious eaten warm straight from the oven!
* A Foragers Code *
- English law is complicated, you can take 'fruit, flowers, foliage and fungi' but nothing dug up, from public rights of way for your own consumption only, if there is no national protection of the site or species or local bylaw.
- Always get the landowners permission first.
- Foraging on protected land such as SSSI's and nature reserves can cause damage beyond repair and can be illegal.
- Do not collect rare or red list species or those protected by law.
- Follow the Countryside Code.
- Take reputable field guides with you and fully identify species before picking them.
- Minimise damage to vegetation, leaf litter and soil.
- Respect and protect other species, including poisonous ones.
- Ancient woodland and permement pasture often contain a rich variety of species including rarities.
- Avoid removing dead wood.
- Do not collect species you don't intend to eat.
- Be aware that some species may make you unwell and that some are deadly!
- Some species are only edible in certain seasons or at different stages of its growth, or after cooking.
- For fungi, pick no more than 1.5 kg of fungi total per visit, many species other than humans eat fungi.
- Don't collect 'buttons' (mushrooms that haven't expanded), giving them time to expand will help identification, allow spores to be discharged and give you more to eat.