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The Delights of Wild Garlic

Ramsons, also known as Buckrams, Bear’s Garlic or more commonly known as Wild Garlic (Allium Ursinum) is a wild relative of the chive, and a favourite of the wild boar and brown bear. As foraging chefs we use large quantities at this time of year, often taking time out of a busy day to go out and collect as much as we can!

Here at Knockderry House we have a plentiful supply on the grounds as it likes to grow in a woodland environment among bluebells, and is identifiable by its garlic-like smell and long lush leaves, which are similar in appearance to those of Lily of the Valley. It grows from late winter and throughout Spring and towards the end of the season it bursts into bloom with white flowers. Our first sighting this year was early March which was a little later than previous years due to the harsh winter, so it was very exciting to see  those little buds poking up through the soil.

A hand-picked bowl of wild garlic leaves (right).

A hand-picked bowl of wild garlic leaves (right).

Cooking with Wild Garlic

Wild garlic is used for its leaves rather than its bulb. You can eat the the bulbs, along with the flowers, but they are much smaller in quantity and have a much more delicate flavour. The flowers are edible and are extremely good in salads or as a garnish and fill the air with that delicious garlic-like scent. We use both flower and leaf in our kitchen. The leaf is very versatile as they can be used as a salad, dried for flavouring, used in soups or even in lieu of basil in pesto. The stems can be pickled or salted and eaten with cheese or put through a salad.

Foraging for wild garlic in our surrounding woodland is fairly straight forward. It is found in semi-shaded, moist conditions and if you’re unsure about identifying it, the smell is the ultimate clarification as its odour is unmistakably garlic! Wild garlic is a fantastic and somewhat essential Spring ingredient of the Scottish chef’s larder, so get out there and get picking.

Garlic Soup

Ingredients

50g unsalted butter
100g white onions peeled and roughly chopped
200g floury potatoes peeled and roughly chopped
300 ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
1 bunch of fresh wild garlic
2 tbsp double cream

Method

1. Over a medium heat melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
2. Add the chopped onions and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper.
3. Sweat the onions until they are soft but not discoloured.
4. Add the stock to the potatoes and onions until a little at a time until it has all been taken up.
5. Bring the pan to a boil, reduce the heat and cook until the potatoes and onions are tender.
6. Stir in the wild garlic leaves and cook for 1 more minute. Add the double cream (or crème fraiche if you prefer) and stir.
7. Blend to a smooth consistency using a hand held blender or a food processor and season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve the soup in bowls with croutons and a little parmesan cheese or make a  pesto replacing the basil with wild garlic and drizzle over the top.

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