We’re now well into the season for picking Wild Garlic, also known as Ramps or Ramsons. It’s one of the easiest wild foods to identify and if you find a patch, it will likely be prolific, making it a guilt-free wild food. When you find it growing, there’s generally going to be far more than you’ll ever be able to forage in your lifetime let alone an afternoon.
With a flavour and scent similar to ordinary garlic, but less intense, wild garlic leaves can be used to flavour any number of savoury dishes including soups, stir-fries, pastas, omelets, and salads. They’re a fantastic wild food to use this time of year though the leaves do tend to wilt within a day of picking. So if you’re planning on finding some to make this recipe, try to make sure that it’s going on the table as soon as possible.
What to look for: Wild garlic will have white flowers a little further into the season but by that time it’s probably past its best. It’s March and April that you’ll find the leaves green, tender, and just begging to be whipped up into a fantastic dish. The leaves are long with a centre rib and end in a point. Before you actually spot a clump it’s very likely that you’ll smell them first. Both before and after picking, the leaves have the strong scent of garlic that makes them unmistakable. Though it’s said that wild garlic leaves are similar in look to those of Lily of the Valley, there’s no chance of mistaking them. Lily of the Valley will not smell like garlic in the least.
Where to look: Wild garlic loves shady, moist places such as woodlands with a stream or pond nearby. If you know a place where bluebells grow, then try looking there first since they prefer the same growing conditions. I find that here on the Isle of Man, wild garlic likes to grow on overgrown walls such as in the above photo. This is really handy since it means that you can forage for leaves without any worry about them being below dog pee level. Still, if you find a patch on flat ground, go for it, making sure that the leaves you select are well away from any footpaths.