Wild garlic is peeping up amongst the snowdrops in the woods behind our Angus house. When the cattle return to a ajoining woodland field, it always brings a smile to my face as I am minded of the tainted butter in Hardy's tale of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. The twang of the butter was attributed to the cows eating the wild weed.
Many cultures consider garlic as impure.This dates from the Greek poet, Horace to early India when alliums are forbidden to Brahmins, and other members of higher castes. Buddhists shared the sentiment, as did Jains. The link of alliums to the underworld may be, but others write of the protective nature of garlic and in the Highlands, wild garlic appears to have been regarded as a cure for any amount of ailments. Personally I ache for the arrival of the months when I can pick wild garlic for use in my kitchen. It heralds spring. In Angus I pick ramsons and when I am on the lsle of Uist, wild or three cornered leeks (allium triquertum), which grow prolifically in boggy ditches. Woodland is sparse on this Outer Hebridean Isle. Either will work in recipes, although aesthetically I'm swayed towards the virgin white, star shaped flower of the ramson Allium ursinum
Use wild garlic in salads, mayonnaise, salt, butter, risottos, pasta sauces, and pesto or as a wrap for fish, rack of lamb or venison. In season I use it in any recipe, which calls for garlic. Add the leaves towards the end of cooking time or they will lose colour.The juice from wild garlic may be extracted and added to oil to make wild garlic oil but do this as you use it. Wild garlic oil is rumoured to entice bugs when stored. Wild garlic buds however, are delicious pickled and store well.
This recipe is taken from The Forager's Kitchen. My husband, Stephen invented its name. Raitziki is a cross between a raita and a tzatziki. For a more intense flavour and colour add a dessertspoon of finely chopped ramson leaves. You could also add chopped ramson stalks or leaves to Paneer, Guacamole or Hummus.
Makes a small bowl
What to forage and find:
½ cucumber peeled
Tsp sea salt
15 chives (c18cm in length)
5 Ramsons white stalks only washed and dried
3 tbsps reduced fat crème fraiche
Zest and juice ½ small lime
Freshly ground black pepper
Grate the cucumber into a sieve. Sprinkle with sea salt and leave to drain for 10-15 minutes. Pat the cucumber dry with kitchen roll. Chop the chives and ramson stalks very finely (I use a micro magimix). Put the crème fraiche into a small bowl. Add the well-drained cucumber, chives, ramsons, lime zest and juice to taste and mix well. Season with freshly ground pepper.