This month’s ingredient – Wild Garlic
If you live in the countryside or have been on a woodland walk recently you may have noticed the scent of garlic wafting across your path, or perhaps even foraged some bright green leaves of the early season wild garlic.
Directly translated, wild garlic’s Latin name allium urisnum means “bear’s onion” due to the brown bear’s habit of digging up the tasty bulbs. Also know as ramsons, the plant is part of the chive family.
In Cornwall we enjoy a climate that is often milder than other parts of the country, and spring tends to arrive earlier. This is most noticeable in the produce that suddenly appears in abundance right on our doorstep. The wild garlic season began startlingly early this year and here at Fifteen Cornwall we had our first wild garlic on the menu by the middle of February.
Where to find it
We forage our wild garlic from a secret spot local to Fifteen, near the village of St.Mawgan. It is most commonly found in established woodland in early spring, and it is likely you will be able to smell if first. It is frequently found growing alongside bluebells and its long, broad leaves are vibrant green. Later in the season (which runs until the end of May) you will spot clusters of tiny white flowers which are also edible. If you are picking your own, choose sources away from the roads or paths where dogs might have been and always wash it really well once you have got it back to the kitchen.
Foraging is becoming increasingly popular and you should always be confident that what you are picking is safe to eat. Many plants can be toxic, or even fatal, so make sure you consult a guidebook and, if in doubt, do not eat. Emma Gunn’s guide, ‘Never Mind The Burdocks’, should be on every forager’s bookshelf. You will know it’s wild garlic because of the smell, be careful to avoid lily-of-the-valley, which looks similar but doesn’t smell of garlic and is toxic!!!
Wild garlic is one of the few ingredients we forage ourselves, but for almost everything else we work with a range of trusted suppliers and producers allowing us access to a fabulous array of seasonal Cornish and Italian produce.
It can also be bought online and you may also find it at your local farmers’ market during the season.
How we use it
Two great aspects to using wild garlic are its flavour and colour. The leaves taste like a subtle version of the more commonly-used garlic bulb, and it is believed to have a number of health-giving properties. If you like Cornish cheese, you may have seen Lynher Dairies Yarg award-winning wild garlic Yarg which is wrapped in the green leaves adding flavour and moisture. This also makes it firmer than the nettle-wrapped version.
Wild garlic has a more subtle flavour than the commonly-used garlic bulb, and its leaves, seeds and flowers are all edible. At Fifteen Cornwall we mainly use the leaves in our cooking, which add significant colour to the dishes. The early-season, younger, finer tips of the leaf are the best; as the season progresses older leaves need to be blanched.
The flowers are used as a garnish and the seeds give a satisfying pop when they are bitten into. The seeds can also be picked and used in a similar way to capers.
Wild garlic recipes
Our head chef Andy Appleton has come up with a selection of simple recipes that could easily be whipped up at home if you have a ready supply of the green stuff. Wild garlic is a versatile ingredient that’s rewarding to cook with and needs just a little preparation.
We always have pasta dishes on our menus and constantly experiment with flavours, fillings and shapes. Wild garlic is almost too intense to use as a filling so we add it to the pasta dough. We think it adds a great colour and flavour to our sorpresini and is the perfect contrast to the earthy flavour of the beetroot version of the same pasta type.
Why not try our recipe for wild garlic tagliatelle with mussels, clams, chilli and garlic. Or try making your own pasta with this Wild Garlic dough recipe. Wild garlic and potato soup is a brilliant lunchtime dish, you can try Andy’s recipe here.
We love to see what everyone is cooking at home – if you try any of our recipes or have any of your own tips on cooking with wild garlic we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch and share your photographs with us on Instagram or Twitter at @fifteencornwall.