I’ve been reading a lot about people foraging for wild garlic in late April and May and posting gorgeous recipes with wild garlic they picked. I love wild garlic – it has such a wonderful taste and it can actually be grown in a pot on the balcony – but I never got around to do that.
What is wild garlic?
Wild garlic is one of a number of plant species whose presence indicates that a wood is ancient. It has traditionally been used in medicine, the bulb being one of the key ingredients in tonics for rheumatic problems and high cholesterol. It is also a popular foraged ingredient. The leaves are edible and the flowers are an early source of nectar for pollinators. The early flowering allows it to make the most of the sunlight that is still able to make it to the forest floor habitat, before the canopy becomes too dense.
How to spot them? Normally the smell – unmistakeable garlicky smell – will give them away, especially that they tend to take over large areas of forest floor. Look for rounded clusters of star-like, white flowers and leaves that are oval and narrow.
We went to Box Hill last weekend and that’s where we spotted them. Until lately I wasn’t hugely into foraging because I don’t like to disturb the little ecosystem by picking flowers etc. (Generally speaking, foraging is permitted in the vast majority of public spaces, including parks, beaches, nature reserves, woodlands and hedgerows, with one important proviso: it’s illegal to dig up or remove a plant.) But it’s not harmful in a way we are thinking it is. Commercial foraging IS a problem, however hobby foragers not only do not cause harm (there aren’t many of them for a start and hobby foragers are very much treating the environment like we all should: with respect and kindness).
By swapping even a small part of our food each week with something grown in the wild, we are relying less on mass produced ‘factory’ farming, reducing food miles and encouraging biodiversity. Also, it’s helpful for the plant in two ways: it’s a way to pollinate/disperse seeds and also encourage new growth.
So just forage mindfully: taking only what you need, a little from each plant, leaving enough for the animals.
How to Make Vegan Wild Garlic Pesto
So with that – we picked some wild garlic on our trip to Box Hill. Again – just a good handful, that’s enough probably for 2-3 meals.
The recipe is pretty straight forward as you can see.
The most important thing is when making wild garlic pesto – to wash the leaves thoroughly. And only use the leaves – not the flowers. But they are nice for decorating the plate and they don’t smell so you can put them in a little vase, if you pick some.
This is a VEGAN recipe but it’s super simple to swap the nutritional yeast for vegetarian hard cheese (like Grana Padano or similar) and then it becomes VEGETARIAN.
The vegan wild garlic pesto keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge and you can also freeze portions of them for later.
Wild Garlic Pesto
- 100 g wild garlic leaves only
- 65 g mix of walnuts and pine nuts toasted
- 1 whole lemon juice and zest
- 50 extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast or vegetarian hard cheese like Grana Padano
- salt and pepper to taste
Wash the leaves thoroughly. You don't need to dry them.
Toast the nuts in the oven or pan over the hob.
Put everything in the blender and blitz away.
Serve it as a dip with crusty bread or as pasta sauce.