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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  flavours are on your doorstep (or close enough!!)

I found this lovely short description of Wild Garlic, by Rozanne Stevens.
"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." RS

Wild Garlic Focaccia

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. The broad leafed cousin, "Ransom", is more of a hedge dweller and you will see its delicate blooming beauty lining the roads of Ireland in late spring.

Growing Wild Garlic in Your Garden
Wild garlic has populated many gardens and can take over if not mowed to tame it. If you would like a crop for next spring, simply plant a few of the bulbs in a semi-shady area, water well and you will be rewarded next year. Be sure to pick your parent bulbs from a verge or hedge and not a protected forest or nature reserve.

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."

Wild Garlic, Nettle, Parsnip and Potato Soup

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.


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