At this time of year British woodlands are filled with carpets of bluebells and wild garlic. The fragrant smell from the purply-blue tinged bluebells is absolutely heavenly, it genuinely makes me happy to stroll through a wood filled with these gorgeous flowers. In addition there is always a certain excitement when the overwhelmingly pungent smell of wild garlic hits you. To me it translates as FOOD or rather free food. Foraging for it is pretty easy and like all foraging there is a wonderful sense of achievement in having found something to eat.
The broad elliptical leaves (see bottom photo) are similar to the toxic lily of the valley, however, the smell is so screamingly obvious I think it would be pretty difficult to get it wrong. If you are unsure about foraging wild garlic you might like to check out the Royal Horticultural Society guide on how to recognise it – see here. Wild garlic is from the allium family and is also known as ramps, ramsons, wood garlic, bear’s garlic, devil’s posy, onion flower and stink plant. It can first be seen in April where there will only be a few white flowers, most will still be in bud form. The white flowers are edible and are a nice adornment on the plate so make sure to pick a few of them as well if you can. By June the harvest will be over, so you still have a few weeks window left to go searching.
My mother kindly gathered a large bag of wild garlic from the woods – slightly larger than I had anticipated – so I have enough wild garlic to eat it in all it’s guises for sometime.
For those who have not eaten it before it has a lovely – you guessed it – garlicky taste although less full on surprisingly than regular garlic. There are resemblances of chives and spring onions to the taste, but with a unique quality that is completely it’s own. It wilts just like spinach when exposed to heat, so a large amount can reduce quite substantially.
I have another wild garlic recipe up my sleeve that I will post next week but in the meantime try making my recipe below, which is a lovely lunchtime treat.
Wild Garlic, Courgette and Lemon Soup with Poached Egg and Crispy Panko Breadcrumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, finely diced
4 courgettes, roughly chopped
1/2 lemon zest and juice
1 large handful of wild garlic, washed thoroughly
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp panko/sourdough breadcrumbs
1 tsp white wine vinegar
drizzle of lemon olive oil
- In a large deep pan heat the olive oil and then add the onion and move around the pan at intervals for 3-4 minutes before adding the courgettes.
- Add the lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and stir into the ingredients and simmer for a couple of minutes, before adding water to cover the vegetables and bring to the boil and then simmer gently for a further 6-8 minutes.
- Add the wild garlic, which will wilt, like spinach, immediately.
- Blend the ingredients until smooth. Add more water, depending on how thick or watery you like your soups. Leave to one side.
- Place the panko/sourdough breadcrumbs in a frying pan and add a dash of olive oil and move around the pan for a couple of minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to bronze slightly. Keep your eyes on them as they will bronze quickly.
- In a separate pan bring water to the boil and add one tsp of white wine vinegar. Stir it with a spoon in the centre so that a small whirl pool is created. Drop the egg into the water and allow to simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. If you leave it for over 3 minutes the egg with harden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen roll whilst you prepare the next egg.
To serve, place a ladle or two into a soup bowl and then add the poached egg, a sprinkling of panic breadcrumbs and then drizzle some olive oil or if you have it some lemon infused olive oil. If you have any wild garlic flowers you can place one on top of the soup.
Have a good weekend. It’s going to be a scorcher.