Wild garlic is in season, an ingredient loved by nutritionists, chefs and generally by anyone who loves food. This bountiful plant, also a relative to chives, is ready in abundance, ripe and ready for harvesting for you to use in soups, salads, pesto’s and more; you just have to go out and find it. That’s right- this isn’t something you’d pop the supermarket for, in fact, at this time of year, it would simply be foolish to pay for.
What does it look like?
You can distinguish wild garlic by its foliage and in some instances its flowers too. Look for pointed leaves on a single white stem; which can look like a spring onion.
If it has flowers, these can look like small lily-like heads; clustered together look almost like a dandelion and as they begin to open look much like white bluebells.
You’ll typically find wild garlic in woodland areas between March and June.
What does it smell like?
Wild garlic is pungent and smells like store bought garlic or strong spring onions- it is the smell of the plant that’ll help you to distinguish it from lily of the valley, which looks similar to wild garlic and is in actual fact poisonous. If it doesn’t smell like garlic, don’t forage it.
Where can you find it?
You’ll be hard pressed to find an area that doesn’t have wild garlic- I found some in my garden a few years ago; stupidly not knowing what it was, I tore it up! But typically you’ll find wild garlic in the woods- the plant loves damp areas where wood is/once was. You’re therefore likely to find it in hedgerows, in parks and near rivers.
Just be mindful of where you’re picking it and keep to public property.
What can you do with it?
Be sure to wash it thoroughly first, but the beauty of wild garlic is very little of it goes to waste. You can eat the leaves raw or lightly cooked (it’s more mild than the bulbous cousin) – it’s best not to overcook it to keep that pungent flavour and taste. But really there isn’t much you can’t do with it; use it for sauces, soups, salads, with meat, fish; it has endless possibilities.
You can eat the bulbs but it’s best to cut them at the stems to allow regrowth. However, if you pull them out use in the same way you would store bought garlic or even the leaves themselves.
As for the flowers- these too are edible! (We know, is there nothing it can’t do?). Use these to decorate your dish, add to your salads to brighten them up or simply use as above.
How long does it keep for?
If you’ve managed to preserve most of the stem, you can pop it in a glass of water in the fridge to last a few days more. However, it really is best to use fresh. But once you’ve found a plot of it, you’re sure to find others close by- just pop back as and when you’re in need of more. If you want to get a bit more time from it, you could finely chop it/blend it with sea salt and olive oil and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks to use as and when.