Jesmond Dene is over run with it at the moment, but I found a lovely little patch in Gosforth Park, a quiet spot in the woods, far from the weeing dogs of Jesmond Dene, which does slightly put me off... I probably wasn't that prepared in ballet pumps and a dress so might have to rethink outfits on future trips, I ended up with soil in my shoes and twigs in my hair... but with a carrier bag full of bright green leaves.
You mainly find wild garlic in shaded woodland areas, identified by its wafting garlicky aroma. It has long wide green leaves that look a little like lily of the valley and it grows in Britain from late winter, into spring. The patch I found were young small leaves, perfect for cooking. Unlike normal garlic it is the leaves that you eat, not the bulb, and it has a much milder taste than the strong garlic bulb which some people find over powering, though I love it... The leaves get a bit thicker and woodier when the plant flowers, towards the end of its growing season, so now is probably a good time to go in search of some.
You can wilt it as a green leaf, as you would spinach or stir into a sauce with cream and shallots, chop it into a creamy risotto, blend it into a home made mayonnaise or wilt through a stir fry. I've been looking at lots of recipes for it and will have to get experimenting while the season lasts. For my first attempt I decided on a pesto, it keeps for months, so is a good way to preserve it for use through the summer.
Simply blitz 75g of wild garlic leaves, washed thoroughly, in a food processor with 2 shallots, 50g of walnuts, 150ml of extra virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar. You can add 50g of parmesan also if you like also, I didn’t this time around.
So far this week I have enjoyed tagliatelle with the wild garlic pesto, and even more delicious, a chicken salad with a pesto dressing loosened with a little more olive oil, manchego, crunchy little gem lettuce, pancetta and pine nuts. It has a lovely mild garlic taste, but is fresh and green at the same time, my favourite pesto I've tried so far for sure...