I am a garlic fiend; I love it in abundant quantities whenever possible. I am currently attempting a homegrown batch that I planted back in November. I must confess that it’s my third attempt; the other two have ended with promising plants being pulled up to reveal bulbs so tiny they were more suitable for a doll’s house kitchen rather than my own. Fortunately, I have a great market nearby that has a stall with beautiful, papery and fat French bulbs nearly as big as my fist, so that crisis has been averted.
Several years ago I stayed at a hotel near Bath and kept smelling garlic when I went near one side of the car park. I eventually followed my nose to find huge amounts of wild garlic growing under some tress. The smell was intoxicating; just as though someone was frying garlic in the open air. I picked as much as I could and drove home with the garlicky scent permeating the air inside the car.
Since then, I have searched in vain for more wild garlic (also known as ramsons); my enquiries online have gone unanswered. Yes I can find it, at great expense, online or in some markets, but the thrill of foraging for it myself has eluded me until now. I had been considering going back to that hotel car park, but last weekend I went to north Cornwall and every verge seemed to be covered in the stuff! It’s pretty easy to recognise; the smell will tell you what you need to know and the beautiful tiny white flowers are quite unique. Well, I filled two carrier bags with the glorious, glossy green leaves and drove back home feeling very smug.
There is a code for foraging, which basically means being considerate when you forage; leave enough for other foragers, animals and for the land itself. To be fair, I could have filled the back of a bus and still left plenty, so two carrier bags felt like a meagre amount to take.
The taste is surprisingly strong, but has a freshness that you don’t get with dried garlic bulbs. Pick leaves that are glossy and firm, taking them from the bottom of the plant if you can. If you are lucky enough to find it, make sure you take some of the flowers, as they are pretty delicious, as well as looking beautiful as decoration.
This pesto works like a traditional basil one and can be paired brilliantly with pasta or gnocchi. Don’t let this narrow suggestion stop you though; it is amazing with white fish, grilled chicken and drizzled over mozzarella and anything with tomatoes. Go wild!
Wild Garlic Pesto
Makes a large jar.
- 100g wild garlic
- 50g Parmesan, grated
- 50g pine nuts, toasted
- Extra Virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- Salt & pepper
- Wash the wild garlic very thoroughly in several changes of water.
2. Dry in a salad spinner or with a clean tea towel.
3. Put in a food processor, blitz until fairly well broken up.
4. Next add your Parmesan and garlic and process further; this will help to break down the garlic leaves.
5. Finally add the pine nuts and put in a good glue of olive oil. Blitz and check consistency. Add more olive oil and keep processing until the consistency is how you want it.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
You can always make this in a pestle and mortar, but it is a labour of love.
Pop in a sterilised jar, cover with a layer of oil and it will keep for a week or so in the fridge. You can also freeze it; do this in ice cubes trays and you will have a supply of perfect portions of wild garlic pesto until the depths of winter.