27 Mar Foraging Wild Garlic in the UK: A Guide
There’s nothing quite like getting outside and immersing yourself in nature. For us, one of the best ways to do this is through foraging wild edibles and one plant that’s worth seeking out is wild garlic. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also relatively easy to identify and widely distributed across the UK.
Wild Garlic is one of those plants we set our calendar by. After what can feel like a long and drab winter, the greeting of that irresistible allicin aroma coming from our local woodland is a sign that spring is dawning. It’s such a rife plant that during its peak it resembles an emerald baize, crying out to be put to use in the kitchen.
If you’re new to gathering wild garlic, here’s everything you need to know about foraging this delicious wild edible.
What is Wild Garlic?
Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) is a perennial plant that grows in the wild, often found in woodland and along riverbanks. It is also known by several other names, including Ramsons, Buckrams, Bear’s Garlic, or Wood garlic. The plant has a distinct smell of garlic and is used in cooking for its mild and subtle flavour.
Where Does it Grow in the UK?
Wild garlic can be found in various locations throughout the UK, including woodlands and riverbanks. Look for areas with moist soil and partial shade, as these are the ideal conditions for wild garlic to thrive. When foraging, be sure to seek permission from landowners, respect the environment, and avoid picking all of the wild garlic in one spot to allow for regrowth.
When is the Best Time to Forage Wild Garlic?
The best time to forage Wild Garlic is from late winter to early spring, typically between March and May. During this time, the leaves are young, tender, and at their most flavorful. Be sure to avoid picking plants in areas where they are sparse or scarce, to allow the plant to continue growing and reproducing.
How to Identify Wild Garlic?
Wild Garlic is a relatively easy plant to identify. It has long, narrow leaves that are spear-shaped and can grow up to 15cm in length. The leaves have a glossy appearance and are a bright green colour. The biggest giveaway that you’ve gro the right plant is that when crushed, the leaves emit a strong garlic aroma. Wild Garlic also produces small, white, star-shaped flowers that bloom in late spring.
What can Wild Garlic be confused with?
It is important to be cautious when gathering any wild plant for consumption. Here are some plants that can be mistaken for wild garlic or that may grow in the same areas as wild garlic that you should be cautious of:
- Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis): This plant looks similar to wild garlic, but its leaves are wider and more pointed. It also has a distinctively sweet scent.
- Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum): This plant is also poisonous and can be mistaken for wild garlic. It has large, arrow-shaped leaves with distinctive markings and produces a spiky flower.
Always be absolutely sure of the identification of any wild plant before consuming it, and be cautious when foraging in areas where you are not familiar with the plants growing there.
How to use Wild Garlic in the kitchen?
Wild garlic has a deliciously pungent yet subtle flavour that makes it a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. There are a number of ways to use it in your cooking, from making wild garlic salt or this delicate ferment.
A couple of our favourite uses are to keep it simple:
- Pesto: Wild garlic pesto is a delicious variation of traditional basil pesto. It can be made by blending wild garlic leaves, nuts, hard cheese (yeast flakes substitute well for a vegan version), olive oil, and a bit of lemon juice in a food processor. The resulting pesto can be used as a spread on bread, a topping for pasta, or a flavouring for soups and stews.
- Seasoning: Wild garlic can be chopped and used as a seasoning in many dishes. It is particularly good in soups, stews, and sauces. You can use wild garlic in place of any recipe that calls for fresh herbs like parsley or coriander. The mild garlic flavour pairs well with fish, poultry, and vegetables like potatoes, asparagus, and green beans.
- Salad: Wild garlic is delicious without needing to be cooked. Simply wash the plant after gathering and toss through with salad leaves to give a delicate hum of garlic throughout.
- Salsa Verde: Similar to the pesto, a wild garlic salsa verde is a great dressing to liven up vegetables. Finely chop the wild garlic leaves with a handful of parsley and mint. I like to through some capers in, a dash of red wine vinegar, some olive oil and a little lemon juice. Stir, season and enjoy!
Which parts of the Wild Garlic plant are edible?
All parts of wild garlic are able to be put to use in the kitchen, although it is illegal to dig up the bulbs without the land owners permission. The leaves of most commonly used but the flowers, buds and seed pods can all be celebrated in the galley.