Tim was on the foraging trail early in life. He’d be rooting around for free food regularly in Cyprus – when he wasn’t fishing, or tearing up the mountain on his motorbike – winding up the locals and the police. Today we did our first foraging walk together in Devon, looking for the wild garlic that’s just in season now. I imagined it would involve poking around hedgerows, hoping to find the odd bit. So walking from Totnes to the Sharpham Estate, and later on to Dartington, I was a little surprised to find this:
Not so much nature’s store cupboard as nature’s hypermarket. Wild garlic is also known as Ramsoms. Its Latin name Allium Ursinum comes from the brown bears’ fondness for these fleshy leaves. Wild boar love it, too. And, apparently the cow’s at Sharpham, in Devon, too. From what I remember, either from our cheese diplomas, or the very knowledgeable Oliver at the Fine Cheese Company, the Sharpham Jersey cows had tainted their milk by chomping at these wonderful leaves. So the cheesemakers decided to make a garlicky cheese variation. Hence Sharpham Garlic and Herbs. Ramsoms could be mistaken for Lily of the Valley or Autumn Crocus, both are potentially poisonous. So, if the smell wafting up from the stuff hasn’t already told you it’s wild garlic, do check by rubbing a leaf between your fingers. Its smell is unmistakable. And, like anything else foraged, make sure you’re not picking from where dogs cock their legs. And try to avoid polluted roadside verges – or at least wash the leaves thoroughly.
Homemade wild garlic lemonade This is a quick and simple, very refreshing soft drink. The juice of 3 lemons A table and a half of sugar 6 wild garlic leaves 1 litre sparkling water Squeeze the lemons, and reduce on a low heat for about 15 minutes with the sugar to make a concentrated cordial. Allow to cool. Bruise the leaves a little to release more flavour and aroma, Add to a jug with ice. Then pour in the sparkling water and stir.
Wild Garlic Pesto