Forgive me for playing catch-up, as I’m already more than a month behind!
For me, the seasons start with March. That’s when the first choice edible greens appear, and the Equinox passes, so it seems fitting. Plus, the wild foods on my mind in February are mushrooms, which are all about decay and decomposition, so what better way to end the year, no?
So here we start. At the beginning of March, you can start seeing wild garlic. Also known as ramsons, it’s a member of the onion genus, and a wild relative of chives. The leaves come out in Brighton late February to early March, and stick around well into April. Around mid-March to April, you’ll see bulbs appearing on the plants, which open to reveal delicate white flowers that fill the forest floor with the lovely culinary scent of garlic.
Wild garlic tends to take over and entire area, so if you see a few leaves, you should see a whole carpet close by. Although wild garlic looks like lily-of-the-valley leaves, which are very poisonous, there’s no mistaking the garlic smell when you crush the wild garlic leaves between your fingers.
Wild garlic grows on rich, moist, deep, dark soil, in the partial shade of well-established tall trees. Bear in mind that the chalky slopes of the South Downs will not harbour wild garlic, so you need to go to woodlands or even country roads somewhere flat, somewhere near a river. I’d suggest north of Lewes or further west. That said, I have seen wild garlic grow in Brighton, near massive compost heaps. I suspect that all the lovely compost has turned the surrounding soil into a rich habitat for wild garlic.
A note on wild garlic foraging (and all foraging, for that matter): don’t forage hungry! Or else, if you do, the above scenario will happen, and you’ll find yourself running out of fridge space.
And on that note ~ coming up soon, I’ll tell you what to do once you find a haul of the tasty leaves!