Spring is when the first blossoms start to bloom. But it is also a time for everyone to go outside in the garden or nature. For me (+ my family), it is also the time when we take advantage of spring and harvest freshly grown plants. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to make soup out of young nettles which is such a typical spring food for me, but I’ve got another interesting type of plant you should pay attention to: wild garlic. There’s a rather easy way of detecting the right plant, and there are many wild garlic recipes out there that you should absolutely try. I’ve got three very easy plant-based recipes for you today.
Why should you even care about wild garlic?
This green little plant has gotten some well-deserved attention in the past few years. Besides the fact that it grows in weed-like abundance that you easily harvest on your own, there are plenty nutritious reasons for you to consider adding wild garlic to your diet. Given its antibacterial, antibiotic and antiseptic properties, it will do good to your body. It is used in the treatment of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stomach upset and some chronic diseases. Apparently, it is most effective in reducing blood pressure.
Where and how to pick the right plant
Wild garlic mostly grows in partially shaded forests where the soil is moist, loose and rich in humus. Wild garlic leaves tend to grow in bunches, usually, the whole area is covered in them. The season starts in mid-March and ends in early May. Then, the wild garlic starts flowering and you shouldn’t harvest it anymore (because it wouldn’t taste good anymore).
Most people are afraid to confuse wild garlic with Lily of the Valley, which is poisonous. If you start looking for wild garlic early in the season, the chances of you harvesting the wrong plant are close to zero. Plus, it is rather easy to distinguish them. Both actually do have broad, oval leaf shapes, but the underside of wild garlic leaves is dull and not shiny as the lily, and you’ll also notice a midrib. Besides that, you’ll recognise the typical garlicky smell of wild garlic. Take a leaf and grate it between your fingers and you’ll be able to smell the strong garlic odour.
However, if you rubbed several leaves by hand, the smell will stick to your finger and next time, you might not notice a highly poisonous and sometimes deadly Meadow Saffron/Autumn Crocus. So always make sure to take a look at the distinctive features of wild garlic: dull green, a thin petiole, grows individually from the ground. If you’re still unsure, bring an expert or read more about it here.
Typical culinary uses
Most people use wild garlic as a substitute for normal garlic or onions in any dish. The garlic-like flavour is milder than sliced up garlic cloves and does not cause any annoying odour (when enjoyed in moderate amounts!). For seasoning, fresh leaves are the best. In general, wild garlic should not be cooked. Instead, it should be mixed into hot food or used in a salad. After the harvest, it is important to process the wild garlic in a timely manner, as it does not last long when fresh. You can also chop the leaves and freeze them for later. I did this with almost 1kg of fresh wild garlic.
Wild garlic recipe I: a cream soup
When it comes to wild garlic, the go-to recipe of my mom is a typical cream soup that she makes with a flour sweat. It is quite similar to a spinach soup or nettle cream soup, you’ll more or less just substitute nettles with wild garlic, and voila, you’ll have a tasty vegan cream soup. Here’s my adapted recipe:
What you need:
– a big bowl full of freshly picked & washed wild garlic
– 1 onion
– 500 to 750 ml vegetable stock
– 4 tbsp. vegetable butter
– 4 tbsp. flour
– soy cream
What to do:
Chop the onion & let them sweat gently in a pot for a few minutes. Add the roughly chopped wild garlic and let it cook for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, bring it to a simmer and let it cook for about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, you’ll need to make a flour sweat (white roux). For this, melt the butter in a small pan and add the flour while whisking it. Reduce the heat when the mixture thins and it starts to bubble. Cook it some time until you get a toasty aroma. Here’s a tutorial for it.
After cooking the wild garlic for some time put the soup into a blender or use a hand-held stick blender, and mix it until you get a smooth(er) liquid. Then return to the pan, stir in the flour sweat and bring it to a boil again. Stir in the cream, taste and season. It is ready to be served!
Wild garlic recipe II: a paste
This one is definitely the easiest and fastest recipe to make: a condiment paste of wild garlic. You can use this paste for any dishes where you’d use fresh garlic. Just put a teaspoon of the paste and voilá, you’ll have the aroma of fresh wild garlic in your dish.
What you’ll need & how to make it:
– 100 g wild garlic
– around 125ml sunflower oil
– 1 tsp. sea salt
What to do:
Wash the wild garlic, remove the stems and pat dry the leaves. Add wild garlic, oil and salt in a blender and finely mix it. Fill the garlic paste into a small glass, put oil on top, close it with a screw cap and keep in the refrigerator.
Wild garlic recipe III: a plant-based pesto
If you’re looking for an easy-to-make yet delicious recipe, then a pesto should be your go-to recipe. So why not make a vegan wild garlic pesto then? It is so easy to substitute real parmesan with a plant-based alternative based on cashews, sunflower seeds and yeast flakes.
What you need:
– 100 g fresh wild garlic
– 65 g cashews
– 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds or pine nuts
– 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
– 1 tbsp. lemon juice
– around 125-150 ml olive oil
– pinch of sea salt
What to do:
Gently roast the cashews and sunflower seeds in a pan. Wash the wild garlic, remove the stems and pat dry the leaves. Chop the leaves and mix all ingredients in a blender. Season again if needed and serve with fresh pasta or put it in the refrigerator for later.
So, remember: next time when it is spring and you venture into the woods, take a bag with you and gather some wild garlic for your next meal. Or just get it at the supermarket, that’s another, slightly more expensive option as well. ;) So, have you ever tried fresh wild garlic? Or is there another spring plant that you harvest yourself?