I love April in the garden — it’s so full of promise. We have been setting seeds, planting spuds and potting up tomato plants. The overwintering vegetables are making a last ditch effort before flowering and going to seed so we’ve been eating lots of green things — spinach, kale, sprouting broccoli and our mini garden of salad leaves that we planted in the tunnel last autumn. It’s all on the way out very soon and there’s usually a little gap whilst we wait for all the new plants to catch up.
This could seem like a problem, but I have been going down to the woods where there is a carpet of wild garlic, food for free, waiting to be picked. Another sure sign of spring! Right now the plants are close to the ground with bright green broad leaves but come another week or two the plants will be taller and white flowers will appear. The leaves, bulbs and flowers are edible but I leave the bulbs in the ground, no point raping and pillaging such a wonderful asset. It’s best to pick carefully, so just pick a couple of leaves from each plant – there are zillions of them – and leave the rest to grow and flower. This plant is easily identified by the smell. Rub a leaf between your fingers and if the gentle aroma of garlic wafts up you’ve got the right plant. Of course if you are in doubt, don’t eat it.
The uses in the kitchen are numerous if not endless — pesto, soup, scones, salads, omelettes, risotto, in the sauce for spring lamb, stirred into mashed potatoes or scrambled eggs – the list goes on.
Here are a few easy recipes to inspire you to get your wellies out and get down to the woods.
Wild Garlic Pesto
100ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic
20g pine nuts
a handful of wild garlic
a handful of grated Parmesan cheese
a pinch of salt
a squeeze of lemon juice
Put the olive oil into a blender beaker. Peel and roughly chop the garlic and drop it into the olive oil. Add the pine nuts and buzz everything to a rough paste.
Roughly chop the wild garlic and put into the beaker together with the grated Parmesan and a pinch of salt. Buzz everything together.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice and stir into the pesto.
Wild Garlic Tabbouleh
2-3 spring onions
2 ripe tomatoes
large bunch of mint
large bunch parsley
large bunch wild garlic
about 50mls olive oil
juice 1- 2 lemons
1 tsp sumac
Put the bulgur into a small bowl and cover with warm water.
Slice the tomatoes then chop into a small dice. Put the chopped tomatoes into a sieve and leave to drain.
Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise, cut out the seeds, then slice into batons and then dice.
Chop the parsley, mint and wild garlic very finely. Discard the bigger stalks.
Put into a large bowl
Peel and chop the spring onions very finely
Fluff up the bulgur.
Gently mix all the ingredients together in the big bowl and dress with the lemon juice, olive oil and salt to your own taste.
50g butter or 50mls olive oil
2-3 potatoes – about 350g
750mls vegetable or chicken stock
2 big handfuls of wild garlic
salt and pepper
cream to serve
Peel and chop the onion. Melt the butter/olive oil in a saucepan and stir in the onion. Cook gently without browning whilst you prepare the potato.
Peel the potato, cut into thin slices then dice into small pieces. Add the onion. Season with salt and pepper and stir well. When everything is gently sizzling away cover with a lid. Keep the heat fairly low so that the vegetables don’t stick.
Cook for ten minutes then uncover the pan and add the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for five minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Roughly chop the wild garlic and stir into the soup. When the soup returns to the boil remove from the heat and buzz until smooth.
Check the seasoning and serve with a swirl of fresh cream.
You can drop into the shop, Lettercollum KItchen Project, 22 Connolly Street, Clonakilty or email firstname.lastname@example.org. www.lettercollum.ie.