Regular readers will know that I went for a walk in Cuckoo’s Nook & the Dingle on Sunday. As well as a bit of fresh air, the main point of the trip was to forage some Ramsons.
Ramsons is known by several names, including Wild Garlic and (my personal favourite) Bear’s Garlic – an ode to the brown bear’s love of the plant and habit of digging up the bulbs!
No matter what you call it, its a great first foraging plant!
We have been eating this delicate member of the onion family since at least neolithic times, and it remains a firm favourite of foragers today.
I’ve eaten it wilted like spinach in dahl on a canoe trip. I’ve eaten the raw leaves (with other stuff) in salad, and made garlic bread toasted over an open fire with home made wild garlic butter, (the slow way – the quick way is to get your garlic butter straight from the cow, as the milk of cows fed on ramsons makes garlic butter! Really!).
But without doubt, my firm favourite thing to do with the glut of ramsons in the spring is to make wild garlic pesto.
It lasts for a good couple of months in the fridge, and is a really good way to get into foraging, as the plant is easy to recongnise, and there’s not a drop of cooking involved!
So here’s my own recipe for Bear’s Pesto – you basically need 5 things: Nuts, Cheese, Olive Oil, Ramsons and Salt.
First thing you’ll need to do is to get out and forage yourself some Bear’s Garlic! (Its not too late – the woodland floors are covered with the stuff now, and the Dingle is the best place in town!
Wild Garlic (say, a pleasantly full carrier bag full – you can freeze any excess!)
Hard Cheese – I use parmesan, but you could use any strong-tasting hard cheese.
Nuts – I’ve made this recipe with pine nuts, but walnuts are a bit more ‘hedgerowy’ (is that a word?)
Olive Oil – a large bottle of olive oil – no need for the extra virgin, just normal is fine.
You’ll also need some clean, sterilised jars, kitchen scales and a blender (I only have one of those mini-whizzer things so I have to do mine in batches – this would be MUCH easier with a proper blender!)
So, first wash and de-stalk your garlic (definitely don’t skip this part – my last batch of leaves had two slugs and a spider in them!). Then you’ll want to roughly chop the leaves.
At this point weigh out your ingredients – you can do this in whatever quantities you wish, but just remember the proportions:
1 part nuts, 1 part cheese, 2 parts ramsons, 3-4 parts oil (in grams). So, for my tiny batches, I used 25g each cheese and nuts, 50g ramson leaves, and about 80g of oil. (I know you don’t normally measure oil in grams, but if you put your blender jug on your scales, you can chuck everything in and do it by weight.)
You might want your pesto thinner or thicker, its totally down to your personal taste.
Now season with salt to taste – better to under-salt than over, but its absolutley essential as it brings out all the flavours!
When ready, pour or spoon your pesto into your sterilised jars, leaving a small gap at the top.
Now pour a layer of oil on top to form a seal against the air until you are ready to eat it.
(I go a bit posh and put a wild garlic flower in the oil layer if its going to be a gift!)
Screw on the lids and label your jars, writing the date on. Give to the vampire-slayer in your life (or to a big bear if you have one!)
Please let me know if you give this a try, and send / post photos! I’d love to hear your opinions, ideas, etc!