The epicureanEdible plants
Simple wild garlicWild garlic is very underappreciated says the Epicurean. Pick it yourself, or buy it at the Vismarkt.
One of the early spring plants, fleeting and underappreciated, is wild garlic (allium ursinum, for those of you who enjoy Latin, and daslook, for those of a Dutch persuasion).
It carpets the floor in parks, forests, gardens and any other green area where its seeds have taken hold, and its mild but unmistakable scent perfumes the air. If you are tempted to pick it, always ask the landowner for permission and don’t mistake it for Lily of the Valley, which is highly poisonous. The leaves look very similar, but the flowers are decidedly different (and Lily of the Valley has a sweet, rather than garlicky, smell). If in doubt, leave it alone.
Thankfully, the mushroom stall on the Vismarkt sells it regularly these days and for a couple of euros you can be the proud and happy owner of some wild garlic. It’s wonderful stuff; go and get some now. First, you need to wash it thoroughly and get rid of the roots, if they are still attached.
Other than that, there’s very little preparation needed; the whole plant is edible. To make the most of it, I think simplicity is the way to go, so below I offer you three simple recipes that can serve as appetisers, snacks or main courses.
Wild garlic pesto
Take a bunch of wild garlic (about 250g) and dip it in boiling water for 5 seconds. Remove it and rinse it under cold water to stop it from cooking. Then put it in a food processor or blender with 50g of grated pecorino (or similar cheese), 50g of toasted pine nuts, a small handful of parsley, 100ml of extra-virgin olive oil (or more, if it looks a bit dry) and a quick squeeze of lemon juice.
Blend the mixture until it is smooth and use it as a spread on toast or as a pasta sauce.
Wild garlic omelette
Roughly chop a bunch of wild garlic and throw it into a large, non-stick frying pan where some olive oil has been heating up.
Sautée it for a few minutes over a medium heat, until it has wilted, and add 5 beaten eggs, laced with 50g of grated pecorino. Move the mixture around with a spatula until it starts setting. Then leave it alone for half a minute to come together into a beautiful, golden and green omelette. Serve with toast and some extra-virgin olive oil for breakfast or brunch.
Wild Garlic Linguine
This is a recipe I learned from Babbo in New York City and it is a glorious way to welcome a new crop of wild garlic. Heat a generous amount of good olive oil in a large pan over a medium/low heat.
Add a teaspoon of chili flakes (or more if you like hot dishes) and a bunch of wild garlic, chopped roughly. Season with salt, turn the heat up a bit and cook until it wilts (don’t overcook!). Toss with freshly cooked linguine and top with a few toasted breadcrumbs and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Anastasios Sarampalis is a lecturer at the Psychology Department. Interested? Then print the text version of this recipe!