For some, the idea of foraging for food brings to mind a small animal, probably a squirrel, hunting for food and dragging it back to his nest. However modern day foraging means something completely different. Sourcing food directly from mother nature is the ultimate eco-friendly way of gathering food: it allows one to avoid the inevitable carbon footprint associated with supporting the behemoths of the supermarket industry.
Nature presents lots of opportunities to forage for food. Mushrooms are a prime example, with varieties such as Chanterelle and Penny Bun particularly popular as ingredients. However, mushrooming isn’t advised for the inexperienced forager as you need to be able to identify the dangerous varieties or you might find yourself in an altered state of mind or even worse, seriously ill. And certain types of flora have been used to create a whole range of hot drinks: for example roasted dandelion roots can be used to make dandelion coffee while nettle tea simply involves adding boiling water to nettles.
However one of the most interesting and abundant (in our part of Pembrokeshire, at least) ingredients that can be found in Mother Nature’s bosom is wild garlic or ramsoms (our more remote readers may know them as devil’s garlic, bear garlic and or even Stinking Jenny). Found in woodland, usually near bluebells, it is easily identifiable by its garlic smell and its long leaves, similar to Lily of the Valley (which is highly poisonous by the way, so make sure you don’t get them mixed up – a good sniff should reassure you). Locally, they usually start appearing around Easter & carry on for just a few short weeks before the flowers appear & the flavour changes.
The main difference between wild garlic and the garlic cloves found in supermarkets is that it is the leaves that are usually used when cooking with wild garlic. While the bulbs are edible, they are often much lesser in quantity.
The great thing about cooking with wild garlic is that the leaves are remarkably easy to prepare. Once they have been washed, they should be finely chopped and then they are ready to use!
Another major difference between wild garlic and shop-bought garlic is that wild garlic gives a milder taste than garlic gloves. However we’re told that if the chopped leaves are soaked in vinegar for a couple of weeks, it brings out a much stronger flavour – we’ve yet to manage to resist cooking with them fresh, maybe next year.
There are a wide range of recipes that can make use of wild garlic. It can be used in traditional meals as a substitute for garlic cloves but there are also plenty of recipes that are based solely on using wild garlic leaves, such as wild garlic pesto or wild garlic and nettle soup.
Wild garlic pesto is a particularly tasty recipe that is an easy introduction into the world of cooking with wild garlic. Simply blend some wild garlic with pinenuts, slowly adding olive oil until you are left with a smooth texture (we recommend the instructions at Badger Bushcraft, (http://www NULL.badgerbushcraft NULL.com/wild-food/how-to-make-ramson-or-wild-garlic-pesto NULL.htm) if you want more detailed information). There are lots of extra ingredients that can be added to enhance the flavour such as nettles, another popular ingredient with foragers.
While the idea of foraging for food may make you feel like Fred or Wilma Flintstone, it is a habit worth considering in this eco-conscious age that we live in. And what’s more, the freshness of the produce will add an extra-special ingredient to your meal. So next time you’re taking a walk, keep an eye out for what you can pick up for dinner on your way.
For further recipe suggestions, you can also visit www.bbc.co.uk/food/wild_garlic (http://www NULL.bbc NULL.co NULL.uk/food/wild_garlic).