April Foraging: Wild Garlic

An abundant and delicious garnish or hero ingredient

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Hayley Bisofsky Pope
Cornwall dweller, lifestyle blogger and founder of The Little Naturalists Club
29 March 2022

When it comes to foraging, January, February and early March are more of a challenge but by spring and the first weeks of April, wild food in Cornwall is bursting into an abundance. One very popular and unmistakable favourite thanks to its potent strong smell, is wild garlic which grows prolifically in woodland throughout the UK.

A great gateway forage

April is the month when fresh growth pushes up from the soggy ground of winter and new herbs and edible flowers become available for us to use in cooking. There really is an abundance of choice, but it wouldn’t be an April foraging blog if it wasn’t focusing on the wonder of tasty wild garlic.

Wild garlic, otherwise known as Ransoms, start to poke their green leaves above the soil line as early as late winter and sees us right the way through until the end of spring, although it may be past its best by then. It’s easy to identify making it an excellent first foray into wild food foraging. However, it does have some dangerous lookalikes, so as with all foraging you need to be sure that you’re 100% positive you are gathering what you think you are gathering.

Pick with care

One such lookalike is Lily of the Valley. It too has long green leaves and white flowers but all parts of the plant contain cardiac glycosides, as well as saponins – a chemical makeup not too dissimilar to that of deadly Foxgloves.

It grows in the same environment as wild garlic too and in many cases can be growing alongside it, making foraging in haste a dangerous exercise. The flowers are a super easy way of distinguishing between the two plants, wild garlic flowers are star-shaped, while the lily-of-the-valley’s flowers are bell-shaped but the leaves can be more tricky.

Kitchen inspiration

It prefers damp ground for its growing environment so you will often find it close to woodland streams or shaded banks. It can take over whole areas and some woodlands are literally carpeted with it making it a very sustainable forage. That said, you should never take more than you need, leave enough for the wildlife and only pick the leaves and flowers and never uproot the bulbs.

It grows on mountains, woodlands, meadows, orchards, hedges, roadsides, coastal slopes, banks and shady habitats. In April, it feels like it’s everywhere! Both the leaves and the flowers are edible but the flowers are my personal favourite. They are mildly flavoured and sweetly scented and can be eaten raw in salads or made into syrups and teas. They can be crystallised by painting them in egg white and sprinkling sugar over them and then use them to decorate spring cakes. They look simply adorable on top of a spring lemon cake covered in sugar crystals.

A crowd pleasing edible

Wild garlic is closely related to onions and garlic and similarly grows from bulbs giving off a strong garlic smell. It has a lighter flavour to traditional bulb garlic which makes it much more versatile in the kitchen.

The leaves and flowers can be used raw in salads and sandwiches for example or it makes a truly excellent pesto. I know people who are not foragers at all but the one plant they know is wild garlic and they forage it to make pesto every year. Crush some of the leaves with salt, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, pine nuts and rapeseed oil and stir through a bowl of pasta, some boiled new potatoes or even drizzle it over some meat and you will soon be making vat loads of the stuff to carry you through the year, I promise.