Wild garlic: forage your way across the UK

The  Staff Canteen

There's no doubt about it; wild garlic - otherwise known as ramson - is cropping up in woodlands around the country. 

However you may feel about the wild garlic frenzy on social media, we thought you'd like to know how to get your hands on it, how to avoid dying a gruesome death by poisoning, and what to make with it when you're absolutely certain it's not a Lily of the Valley. 

But that's not all:  we asked Great British Menu winner Chris Harrod what else you can forage at this time of the year, and why chefs are more likely to be putting wild foods on their plates.

Here are a few of our most popular recipes containing wild garlic: 

Try Kim Woodward's roasted lamb cannon and sweet breads with wild garlic puree, Turkish morels and salt baked turnips:

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or Lee Wescott's brill with wild garlic, calcots and chicken skin:

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or Matt Abé's Jérôme Galis asparagus with wild garlic, confit egg yolk and morels:

Matt Abe

Jonathan MacDonald will be cooking lamb neck, smoked potato and wild garlic salsa verde in front of a live audience at our TSCLive event at Scot Hot on March 14th. To register, click here

More and more restaurants use foraged ingredients - as proved by the success of critically-acclaimed Noma in Copenhagen, and winner of the World Restaurant Awards, South Africa's Wolfgat. Foraging  is a great way of getting back in touch with nature in your local area, and understanding the provenance of your food is an important lesson, especially for chefs. 

Mushroom picking can be a perilous affair and can even cost lives - like that of a customer at the Michelin-starred RiFF restaurant  last week - but wild garlic is easy to recognise, because it lets off a strong smell of allicin, the chemical compound that gives it its smell.

It can be found in old woodlands throughout the UK: The National Trust recommends you visit Prior Park, in Bath, Roseberry Topping in Yorkshire, Newark Park in Gloucestershire, Downhill Demesne in Northern Ireland, Erddig in Wrexhall, Ilam Park and Dovedale, or Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.

But really, there's no need to pay to find wild garlic, it is highly prolific and grows from late February through June. 

Meanwhile, L'Ortolan chef Tom Clarke said to hold your horses, because in his opinion, the weather at the moment is only fake spring.

"Every year it happens, next few weeks it will go back to being frosty. Leave the wild garlic to grow a bit more, it will be too small at the moment. Just be patient and wait until March time. Good things come to those who wait." 

But the truth is, there is so much more than wild garlic out there. 

Chris Harrod, who recently started treating customers to two-hour foraging walks with his in-house expert, Henry Ashby,  told us that at this time of year,  we should look for three cornered garlic – which he said is “another great alternative to wild garlic, very similar but slightly milder than ramson.” 

Wild cabbage and young nettles are everywhere, he said, and so is pennywort, a winter herb with a bitter cucumber flavour, hairy bitter cress, from the wild mustard family; Alexanders, a wayside flower which tastes like angelica and parsley; sea spinach, a type of scurvy grass can be used raw, and tastes like horseradish; rock samphire, which adds a certain carroty flavour, and hedge bedstraw which tastes a bit like broccoli.

The list goes on.

Luckily for the Great British Menu winner, the mild winter has also meant that sweet woodruff, (or hedgerow vanilla, as he calls it) which won him the title in last year’s competition is growing already, despite being a summer plant.

“The abundance is just going to get more and more now as we go into the spring - fingers crossed we don't get a frost to kill it all off." 

For more inspiration, you could also watch Simon Hulston  plate up a wild garlic cream and potato wrapped bantam egg: 

Written by Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th February 2019

Wild garlic: forage your way across the UK