Wednesday, April 8

Somerset in the Spring

I'm sitting in the sunshine of a glorious spring afternoon. Spread out before me are the Somerset Levels, Weston-Super-Mare in the distance. Angela and I have just come back from a glorious walk over chalk downland and through iron-age and Roman hill forts.

The damper, shadier lanes in this part of Somerset are lined with carpets of wild garlic, some stretching back eight to ten feet deep from the path. I picked a handful of the youngest, tenderest shoots this morning, and popped them into a bag. At the lunch stop they provided a delicate garlicky undernote in our cheese sandwiches.

Finely chopped, and added to cream cheese or a soft young goats cheese they would make a veritable challenger to Garlic Boursin.

Our organic veg box comes from Devon, an area richly endowed with the moist bosky lanes that wild garlic, or Ransoms, adore. Riverford sent all of their customers a gift a couple of weeks ago, a large bag full of the leaves. Unlike "normal" garlic, it is the leaves that are of use, deeply green, straplike, reminiscent in shape, (though not in perfume), of Lily-of-the-Valley.

When the bag came I added some to sandwiches like today. Others delicately perfumed a salad of home-grown japanese salad leaves.

I used the majority of the leaves (it was a big bag) in a stir-fry of chicken, par-cooking the chicken first, then removing it from the wok, stir frying some spring onions, then adding the wild garlic leaves to the pan to wilt with a splash of chicken stock and some rice wine. I returned the chicken to the wok to finish off, and added some pre-toasted cashew nuts for extra crunch. A handful of beansprouts and the dish was finished. The garlic had reduced down and was sticky and richly savoury, yet didn't dominate.

If you happen to be out and about in the next few days, keep a look out. Wild Garlic is free, it's seasonal, and most of all, it's delicious!

EDIT: Good Friday, April 10th. I realised a post like this needed a photo. I took one yesterday: