It’s been a long and hard winter and so much of the food we have wanted to eat has been, of necessity, warming and comforting. Delicious though that is, there comes a time when you want fresh food. Eventually, though, things start to sprout and poke through the earth and fresh vegetables of all kinds start to make their appearance.
You know Spring has arrived when the wild garlic is out. You can smell it, for a start, if you are walking in the woods. You might know it as ransoms and its botanical name is Allium ursinum.
Back home, in the North, there are swathes of it running round the edges of my mother’s garden, underneath the trees. Gardeners who care about formality would probably be horrified and, like the Royal Horticultural Society, class it as a weed.
But I come from a family that believes in food rather than manicured flowerbeds, so Ma lets it romp away and we reap the benefits.
Best of all, I have a brother who thinks about what his sister might like, now she is living in an apartment, high above the city.
One Sunday last year he had the inspired idea of digging up a clump of wild garlic and putting it in an old bucket so that I could drive back to the city and pot it up to keep on the balcony. It was marvellous. I could wander outside, cut off a handful of wonderfully fresh leaves and cook away.
Wild garlic is a perennial and after eating our fill of it last year, it died down and just last week I realised that what had been a bare pot was now bursting the bright and shiny leaves. The wild garlic was ready for the first harvest.
It was Sunday and we were having a friend round for supper. I was cooking lamb and the thought of eating sweet roast lamb with a lovely side dish of wild garlic suddenly seemed to be the best idea I had had in a while.
All I had to do was snip off a pan full of leaves
I cut relatively carefully, taking the leaves because I wanted to leave some buds so they can flower later
I will use them in something else.. maybe a risotto? I shall see what takes my fancy when they are ready.
Anyway, back in the kitchen, I heated a knob of butter in a large pan and looked over my leaves.
They were young and tender so they would only need the slightest bit of cooking… a quick rinse and into the pan they went.
Oh the smell……and a sprinkle of Maldon salt was all that was needed after that.
They were served quickly with roast lamb… beautifully tender and with a gentle garlic flavour and an underlying almost-sweetness to them.
How about that, wild food foraged from my balcony?
I have plans though…I am going to go out in the dead of night and plant some in the hedgerows. I shall turn this part of the city into a wild garlic foraging zone!