Wild Garlic, or Bear Garlic and Ramsoms as it is also known, is one of springtime’s superstars.
You generally can smell it before you see it. That wonderful, pungent aroma seeping through deciduous woodlands, promises a sensory bombardment of enticing odours and spicy taste sensations.
Sending up new shoots from early March and flowering from April to June, wild garlic is pretty easy to identify with it’s smell, the profusion of long, deep green oval leaves covering the woodland floor, and the burst of clustering white flowers like 6 pointed stars speckling the carpet of green.
As always, Nature keeps you on your toes with some less than edible lookalikes, so care still needs to be taken before ingestion. Always cross-reference with a few good books. See here for more info on foraging and some book recommendations.
As discussed in the above post, one of the advantages of including wild foods in your diet is the generally higher nutrient density found in them compared to their cultivated/domesticated counterparts.
Wild garlic is certainly no exception here. Boasting much higher amounts of various minerals than garlic cloves, it’s a veritable powerhouse of a plant, long used as a medicine as well as a food. In fact, it has even been referred to as the Magnesium King due to it’s high level of the mineral. Magnesium is my top go-to supplement for sleep, amongst other things, see here.
There are many ways to consume wild garlic, but the firm favourite at Wild Life HQ is in the form of Wild Garlic Pesto.
Pesto, probably the worlds favourite green sauce, is basically some kind of herbs crushed (pesto from pestare – “to crush”) with olive oil, garlic, hard cheese, and often pine nuts.
Typically the herb of choice is fresh basil, but any herb is fair game. But not all are nice! My children have never forgiven Jamie Oliver for putting rosemary into what would have been a delightful pesto. They look disgusted whenever they see his face on an ad or a packet.
For us, wild garlic was pretty much made for pesto. It has such a vibrant green colour and amazing smell and flavour that it kicks the pants off basil, and sneers derisively at Jamie Oliver’s poor offering.
So here is our quick and dead simple recipe. We make a lot so adjust the amounts to suit. The recipe below will make between 600-1000ml (about two 500ml-ish Kilner jars).
We have also substituted the pine nuts (which are hugely expensive) for good old, forage-able hazelnuts. Don’t buy pre-roasted ones as it’s quick, simple and cheaper to do them yourself. Avoid eating them after roasting them though. They are so delicious that you won’t have any left for the pesto.
As for the cheese, ideally you want a good strong, hard cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino, but a good strong cheddar or similar makes a worthy substitution.
Finally, a friendly reminder that your breath will probably be fairly eye-watering for a while after enjoying your pesto, so perhaps give your loved ones a wide berth to avoid any unpleasant insults being hurled your way.
Here we go, then:
Wild Garlic Pesto
- 300-400 g wild garlic
- 100 g roasted hazelnuts
- 150-250 ml olive oil
- 100 g hard, strong cheese, such as Parmesan
- lemon juice, to taste (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Place the hazelnuts into a baking tray and put into a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 5 minutes.
- Take out the hazelnuts and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Place in a clean cloth or tea-towel. Fold the cloth over the top of the hazelnuts and rub them back and forth. This will help remove the outer skin of the nut. Discard the skins and set the nuts to one side.
- Once you have gathered and washed the wild garlic put it into a food processor and pulse until it is roughly chopped.
- Add the nuts to the food processor along with the wild garlic.
- Whizz up the nuts and garlic whilst slowly adding the olive oil. Keep processing and adding oil until you reach your desired consistency. I like mine fairly runny and therefore use more oil.
- Finely grate the cheese and add it to the mixture. Blend it in.
- Periodically taste the pesto. If it is too bitter you can add some lemon juice to balance out the taste. Add salt and pepper to your preferred taste.
- Pop in a kilner type jar and store in the fridge. It should last for 2 weeks. Alternatively it can be frozen for later use.
- Use it as a condiment, a sauce, on toast, or straight out of the jar. Invite friends to share with you so that you can all enjoy the garlicky goodness.
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