“Any serious cooking turns wild garlic into green slurry,” warns writer and gardener Mark Diacono. “Pesto suits it well, because it’s only just warmed through by the heat of the pasta.” So, faced with an abundance of the stuff, Christine needs dishes that require little or no cooking.
Thankfully, eggs welcome that kind of thinking, especially scrambled. “When you’ve got 15-20 seconds left of stirring, throw in shredded wild garlic and it will give itself in to the warmth of the eggs,” says Diacono, whose new book Herb: A Cook’s Companion is out this month. “That way, you’ll keep the green freshness and garlickiness, too, which is lovely.” Alternatively, toss shredded leaves into herby chopped eggs. While chives and tarragon may seem the obvious go-tos for eggs, Diacono suggests parsley: “It works really well with wild garlic, especially if thrown into a mustardy mayonnaise to go with eggs on toast.”
Wild garlic makes a great finishing touch for the likes of risotto (shredded, then stirred in off the heat, Diacono says) and broths. “Use it like spinach,” says Robin Gill, chef-owner of Darby’s, Bermondsey Larder and Sorella in London. “For a simple, Japanese-style broth at home – brown miso, boiling water, vegetables, maybe a bit of poached fish – I’ll drop in wild garlic at the end. It just elevates things.”
Succulent young leaves are good company for leafy salads, but make sure they’re cut small. “About 7-8cm at the most, so you get this ‘ping’ here and there,” Diacono says. “It’s wonderful with some shredded mint, too.” And keep the dressing simple: lemon juice, good olive oil, a touch of mustard, maybe some honey. “You don’t want to drive a bus over wild garlic.”
Gill turns a bounty of garlic into a better bit of butter. He folds equal amounts of chopped parsley and wild garlic into softened butter, seasons, then uses greaseproof paper to roll it into a cylinder. “If you’re cooking mushrooms, add a knob of the butter at the end, or drop in the pan when frying fish,” he says. It also works well with lamb: “Cook a rack or chop, rest, then turn on the grill and put a cylinder of butter on the eye of the meat, flash it under the grill, and the flavoured butter will ooze into the lamb.”
You’ve also got the flowers and stalks to play with. The latter, Gill says, can be chopped and pickled: put 500ml water, 400ml vinegar and 100g sugar in a pan, bring to a boil, then pour over the stems in sterilised jars. “Drain the pickled stems, fold through yoghurt and have it as an accompaniment to something spicy, like curries.” Flowers, meanwhile, could live between sheets of filo to make a lid for, say, chicken pie. Brush a sheet with butter, scatter with flowers, top with another sheet, brush with more butter, then bake.
Finally, after the flowers come seeds, which Gill packs in salt for a few hours, before rinsing and pickling. “You’ve then got wild garlic capers,” he says. “They’re really nice in salads and sauces, and will be good for a year.”