As the first signs of spring finally break through, seasonal cooks can look forward to a whole basketful of fresh ingredients. From asparagus to crab, broad beans to gooseberries, nature’s larder really springs into life this month.
Wild garlic is a particular treat, often found growing in woodland near clumps of bluebells or along the roadside, its distinctive long leaves are easily identified by the pungent aroma they give off. Most greengrocers can source it for those who prefer to buy rather than forage their food, although you may need to ask as wild garlic has yet to reach the attention of the mainstream supermarket shelves.
As an ingredient it is the leaves, rather than bulbs, that are most sought after. These are at their best in early spring before their flowers start to bloom and have a delicate garlic flavour that requires very little cooking. They can replace basil to make an amazing pesto, be chopped and added to ricotta and mint as a super-quick pasta sauce, form part of a fresh seasonal salad or be used to make a luxurious wild garlic and cream soup. If you need any more convincing, wild garlic leaves are also a health “superfood” with research showing them extremely effective in reducing high blood pressure and preventing strokes. But, however you use them, be quick - the season can be as short as eight weeks and will be over by the end of May.
Try my recipe for lemon sole with wild garlic sauce.