The other day, on my weekly trip to our local Saturday farmer’s market, I noticed a new leafy green crop on the stall. I’m always intrigued by new vegetables, especially greens, so I immediately asked what it was. The farmer told me it was wild garlic.
Now, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about eating wild garlic, and foraging (which I have a theoretical interest in but hadn’t tried out in practice). The problem about foraging for newbies, at least in my personal experience, is that regardless of how good your guide book may be, how can you trust that what you’re picking is actually safe and edible? There’s always a niggling doubt that you might make yourself unwell. At least that’s my fear, and that’s just with plants – I don’t think I’d trust myself to ever pick mushrooms! My parents did once and I left them to eat the buttery spoils, begrudging the delicious smells but not enough to risk a bite “just in case”. My parents suffered no ill-effects, in case you were wondering.
So I’ve always been a bit scared to forage, but since I bought (and tasted, because what would be the point if it tasted horrible?) the wild garlic and know what it looks, smells and feels like, I’ve seen it crop up all over the place. There’s loads of it around; it’s absolutely everywhere!
In fact, on Sunday I went for a walk and there were glades of woodland carpeted in it! I walked past a few clearings because there were people on the trail and I was sure they’d think what’s that weird girl skulking about in the undergrowth for? But with so much potentially delicious food about, any embarrassment quickly fled and I stepped off the path towards the patches of garlic. I took a small handful, smelt the freshly broken stems and breathed in the lovely garlicky smell. As soon as I smelt it, I was confident that it was definitely wild garlic! I proudly walked home with my small bounty and used it in the evening’s dinner. It was rather tasty, so I’ll be sharing the recipe with you soon! And the next time I walk through a patch of wild garlic, providing I am picking it in a legal spot (see more on this issue below), I will pick it without shame!
Now that I trust myself to identify one forager’s staple, I’m thinking about investing in a foraging guidebook to find out about more delicious free foods or even attend one of the many foraging workshops that seem to have popped up all over the place. Do you have any recommendations? Have you ever been foraging? Would you give it a go?
For information: I picked the wild garlic in publicly owned parkland where they allow many foraging courses to take place. I made sure that I knew what the plant was and only took a small, sustainable amount. If you’re interested in foraging rules and guidelines or the discussion around the legality of foraging, I found this BBC article, this Independent article, and this webpage quite useful. If in doubt, ask if foraging is allowed, follow the code of conduct for that park and be aware of the general foraging guidelines, as described here in the Foraging Code.