Wild Garlic: the flavour of Spring
From late winter to late spring, foragers across the UK are teeming with joy at the abundance of wild garlic (see here) found across the country’s woodland floors and riverbanks. Wild garlic is a leaf that’s characterised by its deep green spear-like shaped leaves, delicate six-petalled white flowers, and its cholesterol-lowering nutritional properties.
Wild garlic’s deliciously sweet leaves can be added to soups, sauces, pestos, salads, and even sandwiches. They pack a mellow punch with a distinct grassy flavour that smells stronger but tastes milder than shop-bought garlic.
What’s less well known about wild garlic is its sustainability. It is an entirely natural food, requiring no fertilisers or artificial inputs to grow. And since foragers across the country harvest only a small percentage of wild garlic, the population always stays vibrant.
One of the finest places in the UK to source wild garlic is Whitehole Springs in Somerset.
Steve Ellis (a Forager and chef who picks wild garlic in the area for Farmdrop) believes it’s a great addition to our diet. “I’ve made wild garlic and basil pesto,” Steve tells us. “It’s great on mashed potatoes, or in pasta, and it adds a great twist to a cottage pie if you put it through the potato. You can also use it as a substitute for spinach, rocket in salads, as long as you’re gentle with it.”
For Steve, what makes Whitehole Springs such a special place for wild garlic is the purity of the land. “If you come just a little bit close to the river you can see how clear it is, you can actually drink from the river, it’s that pure. And this wild garlic is fuelled by it!”
Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous and want to get out in nature, then there are plenty of places across London for you to forage wild garlic for yourself. Follow these handy tips if trying it out for yourself:
- Look out for a strong garlic/onion smell.
- Pick the wide, darkish green leaves with dainty white flowers.
- Just take the stem and leaves from the middle of the patch, never the root, to allow it to spread.
- Only pick from areas that have a plentiful supply – never completely strip an area.
- Don’t pick wild garlic that has large amounts of white flowers, as this indicates older leaves which are likely to be slightly woody and bitter in flavour.
- Seek permission before foraging on private land.
- Make doubly sure that you’ve picked wild garlic rather than the poisonous lily-of-the-valley. These plants have bell-shaped, white flowers with leaves growing from the stem. Wild garlics’ garlicky smell should keep you on the right track.
- Wash well before using.