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Wild Garlic in Ireland

After all the recent Twitter-based discussions about wild Irish garlic I thought that it was time to spread the news... Great foraged flavours are on your doorstep (or close enough to it!)

Types of Wild Garlic

There are dozens of similar plants called 'wild garlic' that are grown across the world. The one we see here most commonly grows in damp woodland as a floor covering, which creates a fantastic spectacle of white blooms. You'll find it in woodlands, carpeting the ground with its long slender leaves and beautiful white flowers. You will probably smell it's delicate garlic scent before you even see it!

My Wild Garlic Focaccia

Growing Wild Garlic in Your Garden
Wild garlic is easily grown in gardens but it can take over if you let it. If you would like a crop at home, you can dig up and plant a few of the bulbs in a semi-shady area, water well and you will be rewarded after two years. Dig out the complete parent bulb and roots from your source, for planting at home, forget about it and it will look after itself!

Parts of the Plant to Use
The whole of the plant is edible and will add something special to your spring dinner table. The flowers are gorgeous to look at and to eat and make a wonderful addition to salads and as a garnish on savoury dishes. They have a mild, garlicky flavour which is deceptive as you're expecting to taste something sweet. 

The long, grass-like leaves can be snipped into salads and savoury dishes as you would use chives. Or more commonly, they are blitzed up as a pesto or sauce to use as a condiment in a wide variety of recipes. Traditionally, wild garlic would be made into a highly nutritious soup. 

Nutritional Value
While not as medicinally potent as the bulb garlic we know, wild garlic still has many health benefits. One of the most notable is its high levels of folic acid, an essential B vitamin, and its positive benefits on the digestive system. Wild garlic acts as a prebiotic, encouraging the growth of friendly bacteria. This is vital if you suffer from diabetes, have been on a course of antibiotics or have a weakened immune system. Wild garlic also has mild antibacterial properties to ward off spring coughs and sniffles."

My Wild Garlic, Nettle, Parsnip and Potato Soup

Irish chef Rozanne Stevens loves her wild garlic and says:
"All  over Ireland, delicate, white flowers on long, grass-like stems are blooming in forests, verges and gardens. Very much like a white bluebell, the true nature of this pretty flower is only revealed when you get closer and get a pungent, garlicky whiff. Yes, it is wild garlic time. I look forward to spotting the first wild garlic each year. It's a sign that spring is finally here and we get to briefly enjoy all the seasonal delights. For me it really epitomises springtime in Ireland." 

Picking Wild Garlic
Wild garlic, at this time of year, is growing everywhere. When picking your wild garlic, be sure to only pick healthy, undamaged specimens and give them a good wash before using. A good pair of kitchen scissors used to snip the garlic off at the base are the best. Ideally you would harvest garlic away from traffic and pollution for cleaner plants. Check that it is wild garlic by using the smell test: it is unmistakable. Or consult a flora and fauna field guide of Ireland that will have pictures and descriptions. Foraging for your wild garlic is great fun and you can rope the whole family in.

Freezing Wild Garlic
You can Blitz wild garlic with some Rapeseed Oil & Apple Cider Vinegar and Freeze it in I é cube bags or trays, to have some for the rest of the year!

Wild Garlic Creamy Potato Gratin
Here's a link to my recipe for a Wild Garlic Creamy Potato Gratin


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