On a recent stroll through a local woodland I was overcome with the sweetly pungent smell of garlic. The source to this aroma was a blanket of deep green waxy looking leaves covering the shaded floor which are more commonly known as wild garlic or ramsons. If you are new to foraging wild garlic is a great place to start as although on appearance the leaves of wild garlic look similar to lily of the valley (which is toxic) the garlicky smell is the real give-away to this plant’s identity.
Once a leaf is picked and rubbed between your fingers you instantly smell garlic and know that you now have a plentiful supply of free food. More detailed information on wild garlic identification can be found here, and if you aren’t confident enough to go foraging yourself you may be lucky enough to find wild garlic at your local farmers market.
After my first foraging trip this year I made a big batch of wild garlic pesto, the recipe for which can be found here. As the season comes to an end though, the leaves become a bit thicker and the flavour can become a bit stronger and so blanching the leaves can help to take the slightly over powering flavour away a little. An ideal use for the blanched leaves is to make a simple oil, which makes a great addition to risottos and pizzas as well as salad dressings.
A large bunch of wild garlic (thick stems removed)
Approx 200ml good quality olive oil
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, once gently bubbling away plunge the garlic leaves into the pan.
Leave for just a minute before removing from the heat, draining away the boiling water and refreshing the leaves under cold running water for a couple of minutes.
Shred the garlic leaves and place in a blender with 100ml of the oil. Whizz until a thick, smooth paste is formed. Then continue adding a little more oil at a time until the paste thins to a nice pouring consistency.
Transfer the oil to a sterilised jar (instructions on sterilising are here) and top with a layer of oil and this should now keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks, covering with a new layer of olive oil over the garlic oil to keep it fresh.
Photo Credits: Wild garlic: allispossible.org.uk; Garlic pesto & oil: Julia Calderwood.