Spring food: wild garlic recipes.

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.

Wild Garlic Recipe

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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

 

Spring food: nettle cream soup.

 

Early spring is the perfect time for going outside in your garden or into the nature in general and harvest some freshly grown plants. After months of eating veggies that are definitely not fresh from your garden but fresh from thousands of miles away; and let’s be honest, they just don’t taste like the ones that are grown in your own garden or balcony.

Something that I have learned early on in my childhood is that you can eat a lot of the things that just grow randomly near your house. Many of the herbs found in the wild are far more nutritious than the regular veggies that we get in the supermarkets. I just recently read that the nettle is also very healthy, sort of a super food. Nettles are a very good source of vitamins, minerals and protein, they are apparently the highest plant source of iron. It even beats spinach and broccoli in terms of vitamins and minerals! Another great benefit of nettles is that they are for free!

Ever since I was a child I got to eat nettles that grew around our house. It has never been strange to me to eat stuff that we “found”, my mom and grandma were really into getting food on our plates that was local and – more important – seasonal. So every spring we got to eat “nettle spinach” as it is called where I come from. This is very popular especially around Easter as it is customary to eat spinach on Maundy Thursday before Easter.

What you need:

  • a big bowl full of freshly picked nettles
  • 1 onion
  • 500 – 750 ml vegetable stock
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable butter
  • 4 tbsp. flour
  • soy cream

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What to do:

Thoroughly wash the nettles and make sure that there are not other grasses, dirt, or bugs in the nettles. Chop the onion and let them sweat gently in a bigger pot for a couple of minutes. Then add the nettles and the vegetable stock and let them cook for about 10 minutes, until the nettles are tender (very young nettles will need a bit less than that so it really depends on them).

In the meantime, make a flour sweat (also called white roux) in order to thicken the spinach. First you need to heat the butter in a small pan and add the flour while whisking it. Reduce the heat when the mixture thins and starts to bubble. Cook it some time until you smell a toasty aroma.

After you have cooked the nettles put the mix into a blender, or use a blender shaft, and mix it until you get a smooth(er) liquid. Put it back into the pot, heat it up once again and add the white roux to make it thicker and add as much soy cream as you like. Season it with salt and pepper and it is ready to be served!

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A few easy tricks and tips:

  • Only pick the tender tips of the nettles – they taste better. Avoid the older leaves, and of course – steer clear of dog-walking areas…!
  • Wear sturdy gloves while picking and washing the nettles to prevent stinging.
  • I am by no means an expert on white roux, I have tried and failed on quite a few occasions, so here is a better explanation ;)
  • Adding spinach or ramsons to your nettles make them even more delicious!
  • Use less water at first to be on the safe side when cooking the nettles, you can always add some later in case the mixture is too thick for your taste. Personally I think it is easier to make something thinner than thicker.
  • It is best served with potatoes and fried eggs, or I have also had it with dumplings before. Delicious!

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So next time – especially in spring – when you go on a walk in the nature, have a look! Even the things that you don’t want to come close to – the ones that sting when you touch them, such as the stinging nettle. Yes, the nettle is edible, and not only just that – if it’s cooked in the right way (which is super easy) it is damn delicious in my opinion.