And more wild garlic…

Ramsons (Allium ursinum) is commonly called Wild Garlic, even though several other wild plants also have this name. It’s the broad-leaved, glossy plant that carpets old woods in April and May, and bears heads of starry white flowers. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible. Last night I made Ramsons pesto with a bucket of leaves.

I just liquidised the washed leaves with the water that clung from washing, together with a packet of pine nuts, a small bag of other undistinguished wild nuts that needed using up, and olive oil. I don’t know how much olive oil went in because I just slurped it in till the consistency was right, but couldn’t have been more than a couple of eggcupsful, maybe less. Then I tasted it, and decided it needed a wee bit of Maldon Sea Salt (this isn’t advertising, just supporting a local industry from way back home, being an Essex Girl). Andrew said it was too bitter and to add some honey, but I didn’t – these days I can’t stand anything to be too sweet and I thought it was perfect. He added some honey on his oatcake but still didn’t like it, so it’s all for me. Excellent! Strange how the garlic flavour comes through really strongly – individual leaves in salad are very mild, but this is good and strong. The colour is absolutely beautiful too.

What else? Lime leaves are nice now, before they start to lose that spring-green flavour. Wood sorrel remains magnificent, and ground elder has reached the point where it’s better steamed/cooked rather than raw. Flowers appear in salads – cornflowers, violets, broom buds, chives and of course ramsons. We were down at the coast in Fife last weekend and failed to collect because we forgot to go back for it lots of the seaweed Enteromorpha intestinalis, which is rather nice. However my stomach rebelled against a rich diet badly enough on Monday, so maybe it was just as well.

More St. George’s Mushrooms made their way to Saturday’s breakfast, and burdock stems onto dinner. I have only so far eaten the fleshy leaf stems of the Great Burdock (Arctium lappa), although I am assured other parts are edible too. It’s delicious. What you have to do is carefully peel away the slightly hairy outer skin on each stem – it doesn’t matter if you don’t get all of it. It’s a bit like peeling rhubarb. You’ll notice the interesting, musty but rather pleasant smell. Cut into sections and steam or lightly boil. You can serve it as a vegetable; I used to add butter but don’t feel the need to these days. My tastes really have changed!

Noticing the buds on elder bushes; the rowans are out and may (hawthorn) about to blur the distinction between late pear and early apple blossom. Eyeing up this year’s wine and cider sources. I racked off last years elderberry and sloe and blackcurrant wines this weekend – the last before bottling. As usual the elderberry tastes the more promising!

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