In his weekly newsletter chef Cúán Greene expounds upon topics relevant to food culture, sharing insights, positing questions and meeting people who are adding to the collective pot. Each month, we share a selection of edited highlights from previous posts.
It’s no secret that wild garlic is widespread in Ireland come spring. It’s one of the first out of the starting blocks when it comes to delicious seasonal offerings. Those with their eyes perpetually on the ground will notice its early emergence in January in the form of delicate shoots – a reminder of how spring arrives earlier each year. By March, those early shoots grow into carpets of green glory, enveloping forest floors, ditches and pathways. Unsuspecting walkers become acutely aware of its presence, courtesy of the unmistakable aroma, all the more recognisable when the plant produces pungent clusters of white flowers in late April/ May.
If the humble blackberry is the gateway berry for foraging novices, wild garlic is its gallant equivalent in the shape of green foliage. I love how aware people have become of wild garlic and each year it seems that more and more eagerly await its emergence. For this period, basil gets the boot, pushed to one side until our palates (and not insignificantly our other halves) can truly take no more pungent allium pesto. Alas, there is much more that can be done with wild garlic than a substitute for basil.
On a revitalising day out foraging recently with a group of very lovely people in tow, I was asked about the difference between wild garlic and three-cornered leek, what a ramson was and how it differs from a ramp. Garlic, onions and leeks are all part of the allium family and are therefore connected. A ramson (allium ursinum) is also known as ramp in the U.S and is a form of broad leaved wild garlic that is used to make pestos. Just like ‘tomayto, tomahto’, where you’re from defines its title, but to avoid confusion, we’ll refer to wild garlic as ramson from here on in. It flowers in late spring and produces wonderful capers that can be salted and pickled and eaten throughout the entire year. On the other hand, three-cornered leek (allium triquetrum), also known as wild onion in Australia, is another spring-flowering wild plant that tastes of garlic. It carries bell-shaped flowers and is recognisable for its three-edged stem. The entire plant is edible (including the root which can be pickled) and is commonly found by roadside hedgerows. While closely linked, three-cornered leek is a different plant with similar qualities to ramson. Once the season is underway, I recommend you forage for ramson and enjoy its beautiful qualities via one of the many ways I’ve outlined below.
How to preserve garlic
Freeze: Layer the ramson leaves on top of one another and wrap them in baking paper. Place them in a container and freeze until required.
Pickle: Place the leaves in a sterilised Kilner/mason jar. Warm 400ml of cider vinegar with 100ml of water and 100g of sugar. Pour the liquid over the ramsons, close the jar and turn upside down until cool. Place in a dark, cool place until required. Once opened, store in the fridge.
Dehydrate: To make a vivid green ramson powder, dry the ramsons in a dehydrator or oven (slightly ajar) at 45°C for 12 hours or until fully dry. Transfer to a clean spice grinder or pestle and mortar and grind until you achieve a powder. Store in a container until required.
Oil: You’ve probably gathered by now that this one was coming. I love blended oils. They are such a good way of locking in flavour, adding fat and in this case, injecting vibrant colour to dishes. Add 2 parts ramson leaves to 1 part grapeseed oil or a neutral oil like vegetable oil and combine on maximum for 8 minutes in a blender. Strain into a bowl set over ice to chill. Reserve in the fridge for 2 weeks or in a freezer for 6 months.
Grill: While this is not a form of preservation, ramsons are really delicious grilled on the barbecue. Brush the ramsons in a little melted butter, place them on a fine mesh grill and cook over glowing embers. The ramsons will bubble and become crispy.
Words & Images: Cúán Greene
Cúán’s recipe for Ramson Sauce and Pickled Ramsom Capers are available at omos.co