I found a sheltered place recently where there is a veritable sea of Ramsons – Wild Garlic. I love the smell and taste of it. I use the leaves steeped in oil for around a week for making flavoured cooking oils, which can then be made into potent unguents, the flowerheads in white wine or cider vinegars give a great hit in stir fries and can be added to honey for a healing anti-cold remedy (oxymel) and my personal favourite – the leaves make a great pesto.
Above – a sea of Ramsons (Allium ursinum)
A starting point for me was using a recipe from ‘The Foragers Handbook’ by Miles Irving (ISBN 978-0-09-191363-2) which is a great source of inspiration and advice. Of course I tend to modify things a bit…
3/4 cup of good quality Olive oil
75g fresh ramsons leaves
100g nuts toasted lightly – you can use all pine nuts, or half pine nuts, half walnuts, or all walnut, or try adding hazelnuts for a slightly different taste again. I like half pine nut, half walnut.
2 tablespoons grated strong cheese. If vegan you can omit this and add more nut – ground this time. Normally Parmesan is the cheese of choice but I like to use a local variety. In Fife we have a wonderfully strong local cheese called Anster, if you’re local, please try it.
Salt and Pepper to tase
Some recipes use lemon juice to cut through the oiliness, however what I like to use is a good handful (around 20 ish ) of Seabuckthorn berries (Hippophae rhamnoides). I collect these in Autumn and freeze them by the branchful. Pop off the frozen berries into the mix, they thaw quickly and it saves you wasting thawing the branchful.
I try to use the younger leaves from the Ramsons as they’re not so strong and give a nuttiness to the overall taste. When young the leaves are wonderful added to salads or as a topping to other cooked vegetables.
Roughly chop the leaves and mix in the oil. I like Olive but again you can go for other variations – a good Rapeseed oil or Sunflower oil is lighter in colour and taste. Try mixing them.
Blend in a processor or a stick blender works fine.
Adjust seasoning to suit your taste.
Add some Seabuckthorn berries. Some people find the taste a bit peculiar so ca’canny and put a few in at a time and taste frequently as you add them. The last lot I made had about 20 in it and even HH (Helpful husband) found the taste ‘zingy’ but pleasant. Quite a complement from him as he views any experiments with suspicion. Good grief, it’s not as if he’s even got life insurance! lol.
This amount doesn’t make up a lot as I find it’s best to freeze the Ramsons and use them a little at a time to keep the pesto fresh.
If the amount of Wild garlic is overpowering for you, you can try to cut back the amount used and substitute young fresh Ground Elder (a good way to try to kill, sorry, use the pernicious blighter – Aegopodium podagraria) or lightly blanched young nettle tops, for a really good spring pesto tonic.
Hope you enjoy trying it out and some the variations. See what you like best and let me know how you get on.