Wild garlic is at its best just before it begins to flower. In my garden this is usually around the end of March and the beginning of April. The young tender leaves are great with green and grain salads, potato and vegetable salads, pasta and egg dishes, sandwiches and lots more.
This year everything is much later than usual due to the bad weather we had in the season that we normally associate with spring and new growth. Wild garlic has now gone to seed but I still have one shady patch where the leaves, although a little past their best for using raw in salads, are perfect for making one last batch of wild garlic pesto.
There are a few different varieties of wild garlic growing in Ireland but Allium ursinum, or Ramsons is the one most usually used as a food source.
I sold my first batch of wild garlic pesto in 1998 when I was one of the early members of the Temple Bar Food Market in Dublin. Along with my certified organic herb plants and cut herbs, I also sold a range of alternative pestos and mainly wild food based oils, vinegars, preserves, mustards and chutneys.
Wild food and ‘foraging’ were more of a curiousity than a trend back then. It’s great to see the current revival of interest in our native Irish food plants. Hopefully traditions that were almost extinct will now be passed on to future generations.
These days you will find jars of wild garlic pesto on the supermarket shelves but there is nothing quite like making your own. Here is one of my original recipes.
Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
75g cashew nuts
225ml extra virgin olive oil (approx)
150g wild garlic leaves
Season to taste (I use freshly ground black peppercorns, no salt)
50g Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Blitz nuts with a small amount of the olive oil in a food processor. You can leave them as textured or as smooth as you wish. Add wild garlic leaves and seasoning. Blitz again. Gradually add more olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Add the cheese, if using, and squeeze in some fresh lemon juice to taste.
Pour your pesto into cooled sterilized jars. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within about one month.
To sterilize jars or bottles, first wash them well, rinse with hot water and allow to drain. Then place them in a cold oven and heat to 190C. When the temperature has reached this level, maintain it for half an hour.
Fairly thick is good for dips, spreading on bread, making bruschetta, and adding to pasta and pizzas. Add more oil to create a thinner consistency if you wish to use the pesto as a drizzle, garnish or salad dressing.
Experiment by using different types of herb leaves, nuts, oils and hard cheeses, depending on your mood and what you have available.
As well as the suggestions above, try some of these..
Toss some new potatoes in pesto. Roast and serve with extra pesto. Very healthy but I usually add a sneaky bit of butter too.
Pizza with Parma ham, buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, home grown spinach and rocket, and wild garlic pesto.
Marinate some chicken pieces in pesto. Roast and serve with lime wedges.
Jazz up your scrambled eggs. Green eggs would be even better served with some ham!
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