Wild garlic, also known as ramsons, thrives in damp woods and beside semi-shaded hedgerows. It is recognisable by its garlic-like smell and long lush leaves, similar to those of Lily of the Valley.
Now is the time to pick leaves while they are young and tender. The torn leaves have a mild oniony flavour and can be eaten in salads or cooked in soups and sauces. The white flowers make a pretty garnish for salads and can be deep fried in a tempura batter. The bulbs are tiny but edible.
Alex Venables, chef at the award-winning Tollgate Inn, in Holt, near Bath, is a fan and uses wild garlic in a range of dishes including omelettes and bubble and squeak. For recipes other than salads it is best to blanch the wild garlic: put it into hot boiling water for about 20 seconds then refresh it in ice cold water. Now it’s ready to chop up and use.
To make a wild garlic pesto put a handful of blanched leaves into a blender with walnuts, a healthy slug of olive oil and some crumbled Keen’s farmhouse cheddar, season, blitz and serve with pasta or baked trout.