Wild Garlic is a bit of a muse in the foraging world. When you walk past a forest floor covered in those tender blades, the gentle scent of garlic overwhelms your senses, and you’re suddenly fantasizing about sunny kitchens, dinner parties and impressing your friends with culinary treats. That garlicky smell in general just makes people want to cook, and certainly to eat (even if they’re not hungry).
Our fridges have been stuffed and smelling like a pizza parlour for weeks. We’ve been throwing wild garlic into practically everything. As a garnish, as a salad green, pizza topping, dried for later use as an herb… Heck, if we could make ice cream with it, we would! But perhaps the most popular use for wild garlic is wild garlic pesto, and after a night battling it out with the blender, we have jars and jars in the back of the freezer, waiting to be opened 6 months from now, when the luscious spring green leaves are but a distant memory.
Here are a few suggestions for using up all that garlic you’ve been picking. But don’t be shy ~ throw it into whatever you’d like. This stuff is as versatile as it is abundant.
Wild Garlic Pesto
To make this stuff, I can’t really give you exact measurements. As with any pesto recipe, this is a matter of adding the key ingredients into the
blender food processor until the taste is just right. All I can tell you is that if you only have one of those smoothie blenders, you have a bit of a struggle ahead of you (although, I can assure you it’s worth it).
You want to start with a medium bouquet’s worth of wild garlic, washed and picked over, removing any yellowing or spotted leaves. Your other ingredients are parmigiano regiano (or a cheaper parmesan cheese), nuts or seeds (you can use pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds… experiment!), a load of olive oil, some pepper and salt. You can add fresh or dried herbs if you’d like, such as chives, parsley, oregano, etc. You can even throw in some garlic, but perhaps that would be cheating? Amounts are not set in stone, but I try to aim for 3 parts wild garlic to one part nuts and one part cheese, and enough oil to get the right consistency.
Start by finely chopping the wild garlic. You can use the whole shebang, including flowers and stalks. Blend some oil and nuts until you have a saucy consistency. Then blend in half of the cheese. Now add the wild garlic, in parts, blending between each addition. This also ensures that you have blended and chunkier bits of garlic. Add more oil if you need to. Then, when the mixture is almost where you want it, add the pepper and cheese and blend for a moment. Taste to see if it needs more salt, and add some if needed. This makes enough to fill a 400+ ml jar
We’d made two batches of pesto for a garden party a few weeks ago, and the vegan version was by far the favourite. Just a thought for those of you who don’t eat milk products, those who have vegan friends coming over, and those who can’t be bothered to pick up some fancy hard cheese. In my experience, cashews (the cheese substitute nut!) and pistachios work best, because they’re creamy and have that lovely umami flavour that parmesan unleashes. I also throw in fried onion and nutritional yeast, to round out the meatiness. I suppose you could make this version with cheese for some serious savoury decadence if you wanted to. I dare not because I know it would end with me eating a jarful of pesto with a soup spoon. Sadness.
I’d suggest making a few batches, filling up some jars, and keeping them in the freezer. That way, you can enjoy wild garlic throughout the year. Simply transfer a jar to the fridge the day before you want to open it.
Home-made pizza with wild garlic topping
Another thing to do is to use the stuff on pizza! No-brainer here. If you mix chopped wild garlic with the cheese and add some on top as well, you get two lovely experiences in one – the wilted sweetness beneath the cheese, and the crispy brown delightfulness on top. You can either get a frozen pie and add some wild garlic on top (in which case, I’d add it halfway through the baking). OR, you can make your own pizza from scratch! That’s what I did. Using this recipe. I’ve never made any other pizza dough, but I fully trust that this recipe is the best. Bear in mind, you’ll have to start the day before for this method. I usually freeze a few of the dough balls, and use them on the go for special occasions, such as bringing a haul of wild garlic home. The pizza above featured a vegetarian bolognese sauce, the basics shredded cheese from Sainsbury’s (poor man’s mozzarella) and wild garlic. A grind of pepper and that’s it. Delight.
Pickled Wild Garlic Buds
Why not try pickling some wild garlic buds/flowers? It’s a great way to spread the wild garlic joy throughout the year.
When Tai and I were in Moscow, we fell in love with pickled ramsons. Back in Los Angeles, Tai would not stop talking about them, and fantasized about picking our own and pickling it. The ramsons/wild garlic we found here in the UK is a different variety from the one in Russia, with thinner stalks and not much in the way of bulbs. So we opted to pickle the flower buds instead. And what results!
We used pickling vinegar (higher acidity than regular vinegar) and a variety of pickling spices. You can use whatever recipe or method appeals to you. Just remember that pickled foods get better with age, so be patient and let it sit somewhere cool and dark before you have your first taste.
Enjoy the wild garlic season!