Right now, the woods are full of Allium ursinum (wild garlic or bear’s leek). It is a wild relative of chives native to Europe and Asia. It is also called Bear’s Leek because brown bear’s like to eat the bulbs and will dig up the ground to get at them, they are also a favourite of the wild boar. It is a bulbous, perennial herbaceous monocot with narrow bulbs that produce bright green leaves up to 25cm long. The inflorescence is an umbel of 6-20 star-like edible white flowers. The plant’s broad, pointed leaves have a similar taste to leeks, onions, spring onions, chives and garlic. The white flowers are perfectly edible and very pretty too. In April, when wild garlic is at its peak, you are more likely to find delicious tight buds than open flowers.
The fact that wild garlic is good for you as well as delicious is an added bonus. When eaten raw, the leaves are strong and fiery, but when lightly blanched or wilted in olive oil they make a delicate garlicky alternative to spinach. Get seasonal and serve them with jersey royals and asparagus, or add them to a spring risotto, or potato cakes or scrambled tofu for a perfect seasonal brunch. Don’t hang about, it’ll be gone by June!
Wild Garlic Pesto (makes enough for 6-8 servings)
- One large bunch of wild garlic (almost enough to loosely fill the blender)
- A few leaves of flat leaf parsley (optional)
- A small block of vegan Parmesan (the size of a matchbox), chopped up into small chunks
- 1-2 tbs toasted pine nuts
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
Throw it all in the blender and whizz until smooth. There you go! Serve it with pasta and asparagus and a small salad. Leftover pesto can be spread in a sandwich with avocado and tomato.