Wild Garlic – What You Need To Know
There are a few basic rules in cooking, and top of the list is that there is no such thing as too much garlic. The other rules mainly relate to alcohol, so we’re going to ignore them for now.
Garlic is one of the basics in world cuisine. Along with onions and a splash of oil, it’s the first ingredient you add to the pot when cooking Italian, Spanish, French or Indian food.
A few cloves of garlic are vital if you want to make a fine rich base in your stew pot, and when added later on in the cooking process, adds a delicious pungency and distinctive taste which, in addition to its own great flavor, can cover up a multitude of lesser cooking mistakes.
The garlic you’ve never seen.
Most Garlic bought in America comes from supermarkets – usually as a bulb comprising somewhere between five and 10 cloves. You know it and love it – and despite the minor yet rime-consuming annoyance of having to peel and chop every single clove, there’s a good chance, you’re going to be using some in at least one main meal this week.
But there’s another type, Allium ursinum aka Wild Garlic, mainly found in Europe and Britain, but also in some parts of the United States – which is tastier, easier to prepare, and lacking the harshness and extreme pungency which makes garlic unpalatable to some people.
Wild garlic can be eaten its entirety – bulb, flowers, and leaves are all edible and safe to consume. But it our opinion, the leaves are the best part. Leave the bulb in the ground to continue growing more leaves and propagate, and you can have an infinite supply!
Acquiring wild garlic
Wild garlic isn’t a plant native to the US. It was introduced at some point – possibly by settlers and – proliferates to a limited degree along the east coast. As far as we’re aware, there aren’t many commericial wild garlic farms in this country, and you certainly won’t find it in the fresh section at Walmart.
You may have some luck at finding wild garlic at smaller farmers’ markets where it has some small degree of popularity.
But your best chance at finding wild garlic is to get out and look for some (more on that later).
In our opinion, it’s a mistake to pick wild garlic bulbs. Not least because in the US, wild garlic is, if not exactly rare, then certainly not common. If we want to see this transplanted plant increase its range in America, it’s probably best to leave the bulbs in the ground.
You can pick the leaves though. pull off however many you need.
Recognizing wild garlic
OK. You’re in more-or-less the right part of the country, and you’ve pulled up some leaves which look kinda like the image in our header picture. You’re standing there wondering if you’ve actually managed to get hold of some wild garlic or if you’ve pulled up some random weed which will leave a rash on your hands and give you food poisoning. Fortunately, there’s an easy method to tell if you’ve picked some genuine wild garlic or a lookalike imposter.
First off, does the plant you’ve found conform to this description?
The plant which most resembles wild garlic is Lily of the Valley. It’s important not to mistake the two while foraging, as Lily of the Valley contains high concentrations of cardiac glycosides, a class of compounds which increase the output force of the heart and decrease its rate of contractions. They’re also super poisonous.
There is one key indicator which should tell you whether you’ve managed to find wild garlic or its evil lookalike – the smell. Crush a leaf between your fingers and sniff. It it smells kinda garlicky, then congratulations! You’ve found a patch of wild garlic! Grab a few handfuls.
Cooking with wild garlic
We opened this article by stating how garlic is both delicious and essential. But garlic can be fiddly to prepare and is overly pungent for some people. Wild garlic is the perfect substitute or addition, and there are some things which wild garlic’s milder flavor makes possible which would be unthinkable with regular garlic.
Eat it raw
Yes, you read that right. Wild garlic leaves are certainly garlicky, but they’re not over strong. If you’re unwilling to wait, you can pull it straight from the ground and eat it. We would recommend using as part of a green leafy salad. Generous treatments of oil, vinegar and black pepper really bring out the wild garlic taste.
Add it to soup
A few minutes before your soup is ready, add a handful of fresh chopped wild garlic. Your soup will benefit from this late addition to the pot, and you won’t be overpowered.
Use wild garlic to make stuffing
It’s that time of year again when the turkey makes its way to the thanksgiving table. Making your own stuffing is part of the fun and can completely change the experience of the celebratory dinner.
Mix a couple of handfuls of wild garlic with chopped onion, torn sourdough bread, coriander, chilli flakes, turkey fat, thyme, and an egg, to create turkey stuffing recipe your guests will remember
Make your own wild garlic butter
Take a one pound block of unsalted butter and mash it in a bowl with a pinch of sea salt and 3 ounces of wild garlic. Roll it into a log shape and chill.
Wild garlic and nettle soup
As you’re foraging for wild garlic, you may as well pick up some nettles while you’re out. Pick roughly twice as many young nettles as garlic leaves (Don’t forget to wear gloves).
Add an onion, a potato, a carrot, and a couple of celery sticks. Coat everything in oil and cover on a low heat for 20 minutes.
Add three pints of good vegetable stock, stir , and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Add your freshly picked ingredients (combined weight about one pound) to the pot, stir again, and simmer for a further two minutes.
Blend it all then reheat.
Now you know all about wild garlic, how to recognise it and what to do with it. There are some points I didn’t address in the main article, or which need further detail adding. Here they are:
Frequently asked Questions
Is Wild Garlic safe to eat?
Yes, wild garlic is completely safe to eat, provided you wash it first. The only real danger is that you pick another plant such as Lily of the Valley by mistake. Remember to crush the leaf between your fingers. If it doesn’t smell garlicky, it’s probably not garlic.
Where can I find wild garlic?
Wild garlic grows in the eastern part of the United States, although it is starting to spread westwards. It grows in damp deciduous woodlands.
Can I grow Wild Garlic in my garden?
Probably! Provided the temperature is neither too hot or too cold. Wild garlic loves damp, slightly acidic soil.
What does wild garlic look like?
Long, oval pointed leaves with smooth edges. growing from the plant base and the bulb. the flowers are small and white, with six petals on a thin stalk.