Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Strolling through a welsh wood in Spring, is a delight for the senses. Late afternoon or early morning, the fleeting realm of scent, is proliferated by one of our most pungent woodland dwellers, wild garlic. Otherwise known as 'Ramsons' or 'Allium Ursium', it is a widespread perennial, locally abundant in damp woods and hedge-banks throughout the British Isles. A much foraged and historically recognised plant. Sometimes featured as landmarks in old charters, it is bulbous, with broad spear-like leaves, growing to 50cm (Mabey, 2007).
It has many uses, not least as a culinary garlic substitute but consumed in its own right. Try it in salads, chopped in sour cream or mayonnaise and used to replace basil in pasta sauces. This herbaceous allium is also credited by Russian scientists. “An internal purifier of the greatest importance, containing powerful anti-toxic elements essential for good health” . In the Great plague of London, it was the principal remedy for protection and cure and fetched more than gold in price (Bairacli Levey, 1991).
Useful for humans and livestock alike, if you're a smallholder with a few sheep, goats or possibly a cow, the addition of wild garlic to their diet is an excellent prophylactic. Use it to help treat liver-fluke, tick or lice infestations, manage ringworm and as an immunisation against infectious diseases (Bairacli Levey, 1991). I've observed how my own sheep have a craving for it and gorge themselves when it grows in their pasture. It seems to me, that they're able to recognise that it's good for them and 'self-medicate'. If you do feed it to nanny goats or cows, remember to feed it to them at milking time. This ensures that the garlic has left the milk stream before the next milking. As much as we love garlic, garlicky milk isn't ideal on your cornflakes!
If you're after something to purify your blood stream, enliven your cooking or to add to your tried and tested pasta dish, try using ransoms. Use instead of basil in this delicious pesto recipe (adapted recipe Caldesi 2013).
Serves 4-6 Ingredients
50g young wild garlic leaves,
50g of either pine nuts, almonds, cashews or sunflower seeds. Toasted in a hot oven for 3-5 minutes,
Freshly ground black pepper,
125ml of extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra to cover,
25g of Parmesan cheese. Or for a vegan alternative 'Engevita' nutritional yeast flakes. A pinch of salt to taste.
Rinse the garlic leaves in cold water and pat dry,
Blend to a paste with the nuts or seeds and black pepper in a food processor or pestle & mortar,
Pour the oil in and 'pulse' quickly to blend, to your preferred texture, smooth or coarse,
Scoop the pesto into a bowl and stir in the cheese or yeast flakes,
Season to taste with salt,
Spoon the pesto into clean jars with lids, top up with extra virgin olive oil to cover the pesto,
Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
De Bairacli Levy (1991), The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, 4th Ed, London, Faber and Faber Ltd,
Caldesi, K, R (2013) The Gentle Art of Preserving, 1st Ed, London, Kyle Books,
Mabey R (2007), Food For Free, 3rd Ed, London, Harper Collins Publishers.