Ramsons, aka wild garlic

Wow, suddenly it is spring. There are lambs frollicking in the fields, daffodils nodding at the roadside, and wild garlic stinking up the riverbanks. Just a pity the daffodils aren’t edible. Hmm… in fact, they’re poisonous. “Poisoning most often occurs when people mistake the bulbs for onions.” Silly.

Wild garlic, or ramsons, are perfectly edible, and there’s nothing that makes me feel like spring is sprung more than the taste and whiff of it. You can find it growing on moist slopes, always fairly near a stream or river and usually in woodland, and pretty much anywhere in the country. If you’re in any doubt that you’ve found the right plant, just crush a leaf. The stink of garlicky-chivey perfume is unmistakeable.

So, how to enjoy wild garlic? Eggs and butter are a great start, they both work wonders with the perfumed leaves. Oh, and wild garlic is one of those herbs whose flavour is killed by cooking, so it usually goes in pretty much at the end of a dish.

The very, very, very best way to welcome spring is simply to make scrambled eggs and add chopped wild garlic leaves when the eggs are nearly finished. There is no better expression of the lively green flavour, and trust me I’ve tried a few ideas. You want roughly one leaf per egg, fairly roughly chopped, and I won’t insult your cooking skills by reminding you that scrambled eggs require no milk or cream, just a bit of butter, and should be cooked really slowly and scrambled with a wooden spoon.

Wild garlic omelette: same idea, just make an omelette instead and try including some cheese.

Oh. Here’s a luverly thing: wild garlic salsa verde. Chop up a bunch of ramsons leaves quite finely, pour on a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Toast a small handful of pine nuts and crush them roughly, finely chop a large teaspoon of capers, add a half teaspoon of dijon mustard, salt and black pepper. This is brilliant with lamb chops, or as a pesto in pasta.

And my fourth idea of the day for wild garlic is a simple pasta dish for two. Slice up a big leek and gently saute in 50/50 butter and olive oil, seasoning it with plenty of salt and black pepper. You want to cook it until it is completely soft, but don’t let any of it catch and brown. Coincidentally this takes about as long as boiling a pan of spaghetti, which you should also do. Now, add a handful of chopped wild garlic leaves to the leeks and a handful of grated pecorino. Dump this into the drained spaghetti along with a big knob of butter and another glug of olive oil, mix together and serve into warmed bowls with another good grind of black pepper.

The white star-shaped flowers of the ramsons are just as edible as the leaves and taste a little milder, so you can make the pasta (or any other ramsons dish) look really spiffy by simply sprinkling a few flowers on top before serving.

But to recap, if you only pick one tiny bunch of ramsons this year, go for the scrambled eggs.

2 pings

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