Wild garlic & ancient woods

Back at the beginning of the wild garlic season this year, I took a trip down to visit my family in North Cornwall.  For years I have seen wild garlic en masse in Coombe Valley and have always felt the urge to forage and gorge.  Until this year, I only picked the odd sprig for a salad, but on this visit I came armed with freezer bags and a good sense of smell – I’d heard that wild garlic is most potent when the leaves are young and the plants haven’t flowered yet.  IMG_1798

The north coast near Bude, with it’s expansive views and awe-inspiring sunsets, is closely nestled by dense woodland in the Morwenstow area.  Coombe valley is old, beautiful and very aromatic when the garlic is out, and it grows across the valley – this is a sign of ancient wooodland.

London does not come naturally to me.  I grew up in a hamlet in Somerset on the edge of a forest – it was a 20 minute drive to get a pint of milk!  As I get older, the draw back to the countryside gets stronger and I know it’s only a matter of time before I give up the daily rat-race and make the move back to the South West.

On my last visit to county, I decided to make what I make best…pesto.  With a major alteration to my normal recipe, and a bit of experimenting, I found myself with four little pots of fresh wild garlic pesto that was tasty, garlicy (obviously) and very hot!  Regardless, it was a lovely process being able to walk into the woods, pick the garlic leaves and then transform it into glass gem-like pots of bright green paste.


Recently, I have experimented with using Rapeseed oil instead of Olive oil for my pestos’, and I much prefer it.  Not only is it healthier and you can get excellent quality Rapeseed oil manufactured in the UK, but it has a much subtler flavour which I think works better to compliment the basil, parsley or whatever you’re making the pesto from – try it.   In my last batch of wild garlic pest0, I also used a bit of Cornish Yarg instead of Parmesan.  This gave it a lovely creamy, but slightly sharp flavour – and it also cooled the pesto down a little.  However, I do think Parmesan keeps better and I would continue to use it in the future.

Wild garlic pesto (the makes about a jar):

  • 1 handful of toasted pine nuts (30g)
  • 1 handful of cleaned wild garlic leaves (60g)
  • 1 handful of parmesan (15g) OR Cornish Yarg
  • 70ml Rapeseed oil
  • pinch salt & pepper
  • squeeze of lemon
This is super-easy…
  1. Blitz together the garlic leaves, salt, pepper and parmesan
  2. Add the toasted pinenuts
  3. Slowly pour in the Rapeseed oil as you blend, until the pesto becomes a paste (you can choose your own consistency)
  4. Transfer to a bowl and stir in a squeeze of lemon (taste as you go)

Use this sparingly with fish or pasta – it’s absolutely delicious, but potent stuff!

For more regular musings follow me on Twitter: @myherbkitchen & Instagram: @Jopaints



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