Mark Hix on how to forage for wild ramsons, Britain’s most underrated herb
Wild garlic, or ramsons as the common variety is known, is one of the most abundant and tasty herbs growing in the British countryside. It’s a shame more people don’t forage for it and use it in their cooking.
There are two main varieties that grow in the UK: three-cornered and hedgerow garlic. The latter springs up at the end of autumn and lasts until the broader leaved ramsons appear in early spring. So there’s a good six months’ worth of wild garlic varieties to work with and preserve in different forms.
During the season down in Dorset, I always make the most of preserving the leaves, stems and roots. I usually purée the leaves with some extra virgin rapeseed oil just as it is, or make a kind of pesto with a hard English cheese (like Berkswell) and walnuts.
I’ve even made a sort of salsa verde with capers and mustard – all of which can be used during the course of the year – simply tossed into pasta or as an accompaniment to grilled meat, fish or vegetables.
I’ve pickled wild garlic stems in Japanese rice vinegar with pink peppercorns, too, and you can make a great English version by using cider vinegar instead, which is perfect with salad or cheese.
At the end of the season, both varieties produce delicious buds, then white flowers, which can be deep fried in a light tempura batter as a snack or a starter. The buds themselves can be tossed in butter and scattered over meat and fish.
The uses of wild and hedgerow garlic are never-ending, so make the most of this abundant, versatile (and not to mention, free) herb by going foraging before the season finishes. You’ll have a bin liner full in no time.