So word is getting around that I am very interested in plants and cooking with wild food, I have currently three books on the go all about wild cooking and a mountain of ideas! I was told there was some wild garlic growing in the garden which apart from the initial idea of soup I didn’t really know what else I should do with it, so I had a little research for some cool dishes! I did a little research on the plant too and was very suprised to find out how this plant can be mixed up with another poisonous plant called Lily-of-the-Valley. This can happen when the flowers aren’t in bloom which being at the beginning of spring they aren’t. The main thing that distinguishes this plant from anything else is that it smells very strongly of onion and garlic! Their leaves are also formed differently I noticed after researching, but to be on the safe side I double checked with the garden owner. Pesto seemed to be the most simple, popular recipe with just a few basic ingredients that we already had in the cupboard so I thought why not give it a go.
Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) also known as Ramsons have beautiful long green leaves and you can usually smell them before you spot them as they have a very strong onion/garlic scent. When raw they are quite strong to eat that are similar to chives, cooking them helps reduce the flavour. You will find Wild Garlic in woodland areas and damp places.
TOP TIPS FOR PICKING WILD GARLIC
- Make sure you can identify wild garlic by an experienced forager, they can be identified by their leaves and distinct smell but can potentially be mixed up with similar looking poisonous plants.
- Ask permission to pick and do not remove bulbs from the ground as they will not grow back.
- Thoroughly wash leaves thoroughly before use
- You can eat all of the plant including the flowers when in bloom.
- Cook leaves and treat like spinach if you prefer a milder flavour.
WILD GARLIC PESTO
100g Raw Wild Garlic leaves
50g Cashews (Pine nuts or whatever you prefer)
100ml Olive Oil
- Chop up the washed Wild Garlic leaves into relatively small pieces.
- Place the nuts and parmesan with the leaves and use a blender to break it all down.
- Introduce olive oil gradually until you have your preferred consistency.
- Add some black pepper to finish.
- Use as a sauce or as to add a bit of flavour to your dish.
- Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
I really love finding new ways of making the things we love to make, like cupcakes for instance. I told April we would make some more cupcakes during the holidays together so thought this would be a good way to combine some foraging as well as baking…..I first discovered Gorse in the South West of England although they grow well up here in Scotland just a little bit later. I have read about foragers using gorse flowers for wine and beer and I decided to see what else I could make out of these and if possible to store for the future. Researching, the most common theme in recipes seemed to be making a gorse syrup to add to things such as cakes, pancakes, cordials etc so I thought this would be a good start and we set out for some gorse bushes that we have spotted on our daily walk.
Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a very common shrub that can be found in heaths and cliffs and is noticeable by it’s beautiful yellow flowers with very green prickly leaves. If you have not come upon a gorse bush, you will be pleasantly surprised by not only their vivid yellow beauty but when you get up close or crush the petals in your fingers it smells just like coconut. If you eat them raw also they have the slight taste of grassy almonds.
TOP TIPS FOR GORSE PICKING
- Pick Gorse flowers in Spring time and only where there are many to pick, leave the rest for the wildlife!
- Be prepared to walk, gorse bushes tend to grow in places that are hard to get to.
- Be patient, Gorse bushes are very prickly and you cannot quickly pick them…you can try to wear gloves but you may struggle to get at them.
- Try pick the whole flower and not squash them too much.
- Take a good basket or tub to catch them to make quicker work.
- Once collected make sure you rinse the flowers thoroughly to get rid of any little creatures!
WILD GORSE SYRUP
100g Gorse Flowers
300g Caster Sugar
- Put the sugar and water into a medium pan and bring to the boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Place the clean gorse flowers into the pan and boil for a couple minutes more, take off the heat and set aside overnight or for 6 hours at least.
- Bring the mixture to boil once more for 10 minutes for a stronger flavour and then set aside to cool.
- Use a muslin or fine sieve to drain the syrup into a sealed container, this can be used straight away or stored in the fridge for up to a month.
WILD GORSE AND COCONUT CUPCAKES
2 x Eggs
110g Golden Caster Sugar
110g Self Raising Flour
2 tbsp Gorse Syrup
25g Desiccated Coconut
Pinch of Salt
200g Icing Sugar
2 tsp Gorse Syrup
Gorse Flowers for topping
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees and fill a cupcake tray with 12 cases (this recipe may make more!)
- Beat the butter and sugar together, you can do this by hand but it’s easier with an electric whisk.
- Add the eggs in slowly so not to curdle until the mixture is even and soft.
- Sieve the flour and bit of salt to the mixture stirring it constantly.
- Add the gorse syrup (I added 2 tbsp but you can add more or less!) and the dessicated coconut until even.
- Using two spoons, spoon the mixture evenly into the cases probably around half way giving them space to rise in the oven.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes in the middle of the oven until golden brown and use a tooth pick/skewer to check they’re cooked evenly (it should come out clean!)
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- To make the icing sugar, pour the icing into a bowl and gradually introduce some water, the consistency is key for topping. If you add too much water in you will flood the cupcakes, you need the consistency to be thick that gradually moulds over the top. Add some more Gorse syrup for flavouring if desired.
- Once the cupcakes have cooled down, place a small amount of icing onto the top of the cupcake and circle it around in your hand to let the icing drip evenly, place a small gorse flower in the middle and set them set.
WILD GORSE GIN COCKTAIL
Indian Tonic Water/Lemonade
- Fill an ice tray with some gorse petals and add water only half way, let this freeze. Once fully frozen, repeat and fill to the top with more petals and water so the flower petals are even throughout the cube.
- Fill up your glass with petal ice cubes, your favourite gin and around 5 tbsp of gorse syrup (or as much as you like!)
- Add either Indian tonic water or lemonade if you prefer something sweeter…
- Add some lemon to finish…enjoy!