Wild Garlic grows throughout the Spring in damp woodland areas (very often you will find it close to a stream) and will quite often fill the area it’s growing in with a delicious garlic aroma. It’s a fairly easy plant to forage for as that garlic smell is fairly distinctive, especially if you run the leaves between your fingers, but sometimes people do occasionally confuse it for lily of the valley which is poisonous so some care is needed.
If you don’t fancy trying to pick wild garlic yourself you don’t necessarily have to miss out as apparently it’s becoming increasingly common to see it for sale at farmers markets. Wherever you get it from I would recommend giving it a good wash before you use it just in case. You never know what has been roaming in the woodlands!
Unlike traditional garlic, people don’t tend to use the bulbs for cooking (although these and the flowers are both edible). Instead they cook with the beautiful smooth green leaves. When raw these can taste ferociously strongly of both garlic and onion, but when cooked, they have a delicate garlic flavour instead and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Over the last few weeks the wild garlic has started to appear around my area and on the weekend I managed to get out and pick some to cook with. In the end I had enough to make two different recipes.
The first was a wild garlic and walnut pesto. For this I combined wild garlic leaves with walnuts, parmesan, lemon juice and olive oil. The pesto was really quick and simple to make, I just chopped everything up together in my food processor until I had a smooth paste which I then used on some pasta.
As I mentioned above, the raw leaves pack quite a punch and so this pesto is not for the faint hearted (or anyone off on a date). Combining it with hot pasta which warms it through does take the edge it a little, but this is still a seriously strong pesto. While the garlic flavour is delicious (provided you like garlic) and not at all overwhelming or unpleasant to eat, it will linger on your breath for quite some time. I recommend some mints for dessert after this one!
The second dish I prepared – wild garlic, mushroom and blue cheese tarts – involves cooking the leaves and so provides a much more breath friendly option.
For the filling of these tarts I cooked strips of wild garlic leaves together with some small pieces of mushroom. I then topped this with blue cheese and filled the gaps with an egg and milk mix before baking.
I was hoping to get hold of some wild mushrooms to keep in with the woodland/foraged theme, but I think it may be a little too late in the season as there were none to be found. The plain old closed cup mushrooms I did locate were fine though.
The little tarts had a much more subtle, but still noticeable, garlic flavour, which worked well with the mushrooms and the salty blue cheese. I absolutely loved these tarts, I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but they were gorgeous. I ate them with potatoes as a main course, but I think they would also work well as a tasty little starter.