Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Wild Garlic Pesto

I'm enjoying this little heat wave we're having in Newcastle, albeit through a window, but enjoying it all the same. I took it as an opportunity to become a forager at the weekend. My foraging career to date has mainly just been for blackberries, actually perhaps that's all. I once ate some wild watercress in the Lake District but that's about it... So I've decided to be a bit more adventurous. I found a lovely recipe for Wild Garlic Pesto, so I set out in search of the wild garlic. You can smell it before you see it, I have caught wafts of it from various gardens and parks around Jesmond, you just need to keep an eye out...

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...


  1. Wild garlic in Jesmond Dene? Brilliant! That's good to know because I ordered some from Tesco but they didn't have it in stock. So I still haven't tried it.
    This pesto is a really tempting idea... can't wait to try it!

  2. There's still loads around but probably only for a few more weeks, so go and pick some! I've just got another few bags full from the Lake District!

    Anna x

  3. can you find it in the Winter in the Dene? i'm tempted to go now! Also is there nothing you can use the bulbs for?

  4. It's mainly around in April and May, you may find some in March but I doubt there's any yet!
    The bulbs are tiny really so haven't tried anything with them yet!
    Let me know when you spot any!

  5. Lots round by Causey Arch and Longacre Woods (Gateshead) at the moment - I'm off to forage!

  6. I'm off to Jesmond Dene tonight!


Happy cooking! Let me know if you make any of my recipes, send a picture, and let me know any of your own recipes and tips! Anna x