Tag Archives: ramsons

Wild garlic and thyme

Wild garlic,ramsons, Allium Ursinum, bear’s garlic, devil’s garlic, gypsy’s onions and stinking Jenny are all names given to a plant that grows widely in damp woodland around Britain and in Europe. Despite its many pseudonyms I’m sticking to plain old wild garlic because that is what I (and many others in the UK) know it as.

Wild garlic only has a short season. It’s almost a case of blink and you’ll miss it in Wales. It only really starts to show itself at the end of February (depending on how mild the weather is) but now the signs are that the season is coming to an end (you can tell when it begins to flower). I have a huge wild garlic patch in my garden and while its there I like to take full advantage of it.

There are many reasons for eating wild garlic and it has so many reported health properties (good for the heart, the blood, high blood pressure, digestive cleansing among them) although I just think it tastes damn good. But then I am a big fan of garlic, which generally is good for you anyway. The only group who should avoid wild garlic are breastfeeding mothers…but only because it supposedly makes the breast milk taste of garlic! Breastfeeding didn’t stop me eating garlic and now they both love the stuff!!

I use wild garlic in lots of things. I’ve blogged about making wild garlic puree before (it makes the perfect finish to a delicate creamy soup) and I often add a chopped handful to a home-made minestrone. Salads cry out for a few added leaves and of course the flowers are edible too, so they can be used for flavour and prettiness.

This weekend I tried them out in a Spanish tortilla along with some fresh thyme, which is just starting to wake up in the garden too.

Wild garlic and thyme; they make such a perfect combination. Mixed with potatoes, red onions and olive oil they create a dish of perfect simplicity. Add the eggs and bake in the oven and hey presto you have an easy, tasty supper…or in this case a dish that when cut into squares made the perfect addition to our tapas menu at supper club.

For your tortilla which will feed six (very hungry) to eight people you will need:

700g waxy potatoes (such as charlotte, maris peer), peeled, washed and cut into thinnish slices, 1 large red onion finely sliced, 500ml of olive oil, a handful of fresh thyme leaves, a handful of finely chopped wild garlic, 8 large eggs, a couple of good tablespoons full of finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 5.

Warm half the olive oil in a large pan. Layer the potatoes and onions, thyme and wild garlic in the pan. Pour over the rest of the olive oil (yes I know it uses a lot but the aim is to poach the potatoes in it. You can save it and use it again afterwards), cover the pan and cook gently for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Beat the eggs, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Drain the potato and onion mixture saving the olive oil for another day. Add potatoes to the eggs and mix together. Transfer it all to the pan and put in the oven for about 20 minutes or until set and just turning brown on top.

You can serve this hot or cold and it’s best accompanied by a salad dressed with a sharp acidic dressing.

NB: Choose a pan that can be used on the top of the stove and in the oven.

Another NB: Take care when picking wild garlic. If you are not sure what you are looking for ask someone who knows…Wild garlic can easily be mistaken for Lily of the Valley…which is poisonous (although really, if you crush the leaves and they smell like garlic you’ve probably found it correctly).

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Gardening, farms, markets and wild dining

Unfortunately due to a lack of bookings, supper club didn’t take place this weekend. It’s a shame as I do look forward to it, but hey every cloud has a silver lining and the lack of supper club simply meant more time in the garden, pruning, digging, planting up the veg patch and thinking of new ways to use the free wild produce growing there.

purple sprouting

spring cabbages

last of the winter lettuces, amazingly survived the snow and the cold protected in the polytunnels

On Friday afternoon I’d already taken advantage of the sunny weather and extra time on my hands to spend an hour at Moelyci environmental centre with the little one, the teen and their mate. I’d originally popped in to see if their rhubarb was ready (which I wanted to use to make rhubarb and ginger jam for my produce stall at the Moelyci spring fair this Sunday 17th April) and by chance also got the opportunity to visit their six new residents. The teen was less than enthusiastic so in honour of her swinish behaviour we named one after her….the littlun had a whale of a time pig herding and chasing them round a rather muddy enclosure, but was very sad to learn that in due course we would be enjoying Moelyci bacon!

Aidan pig herding

Roisin the pig, named after the teen 🙂

My love of local produce doesn’t end at Moelyci and I spend lots of time hunting down new and exciting goodies. The markets (at Ysgol David Hughes on Anglesey and Conwy RSPB reserve) are a must, whether its to pick up some well-loved favourites or to hunt out something new, like the Rhyd y Delyn Caerphilly (not for sale yet but got myself a sample and its pretty damn yummy).

Derimon smokery
locally cultivated shiitake mushrooms

Back in the garden my wild garlic and sorrel patches expand every year, as do the nettles. While trying to keep them from creeping across the rest of the garden I also keep in mind that they are a very useful addition to the garden and a great free natural resource for cooking. Nettles are apparently high in iron and natural histamines and are a diuretic so good for detoxifying. They are probably the best free spring tonic you can get, although whether their histamine properties mean they ward off hay fever (which is just starting to kick in now the sun is out and the blossom is on the tress) I don’t know…but its worth a try! So off I went armed with a pair of thick gloves and a carrier bag to collect enough of the tips (it’s just the young tops that you want) for a big pot of soup. Today then on the menu was rhubarb, nettles and ramsons.

nettles and ramsons for the soup

For my nettle soup I melted 50g butter in a pan and sweated a large chopped onion, 2 sticks of celery and half a small head of fennel for about 10 minutes. I then added a large peeled and chopped potato (about 400g) half a carrier bag of nettle tops and a litre of chicken stock (but you could use vegetable stock) and allowed it to simmer for about 15 minutes until the potato was cooked. Once cooked I chucked in a small bunch of chopped wild garlic (ramsons) and salt and pepper then blitzed in the blender until smooth. Finally check the seasoning and add about 100ml cream. The soup has a light, delicate flavour, a bit like pea soup. I didn’t want to over do it with the wild garlic for fear of smothering the taste of the nettle (like a mild spinach) but you could add more if you wanted a stronger chivey sort of taste. All you need to enjoy is a sunny spot and maybe a glass of something cold.

creamy nettle and wild garlic soup

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