Wild garlic is abundant at this time of year, and can be found on damp verges and woodlands throughout the countryside. Best picked while it is still young, as the season progresses from February to June the leaves become slightly tougher and stronger in flavour. Add a few leaves to stir fries and stews, or make this fabulous garlic butter; we love it melted over fresh pasta, spread over crusty baguette with some fresh prawns or, best of all, served on top of a lovely steak and chips!
In terms of identification, you know you’ve got the right plant by the strong odour of garlic when harvested (the only things you might mistake it for are lords and ladies or lily of the valley). Both of these plants are toxic but don’t have that obvious fragrance when picked, so double check with a good foraging book before you head out! There are a few rules to remember when foraging; only take as much as you need, and try to spread out your picking so you don’t deplete just one area. Avoid areas of high traffic pollution and always harvest away from areas where dogs might have been active. Lastly, accurate identification is essential, especially when it comes to poisonous plants, fungi and berries; there are many apps and online resources available to help make sure you are picking the right thing, and a weekend foraging course is always a fun and educational experience.
The leaves will last for a good week if placed in a glass of water and stored in the fridge door.
250g unsalted butter
25g wild garlic (a good handful)
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon sea salt
A good grinding of fresh black pepper
- Allow the butter to come up to room temperature and soften. Rinse the leaves and then either give them a good whizz in a salad spinner or drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
- Chop the leaves as finally as you can, then beat into the butter along with the salt, pepper and zest. You may find some moisture comes out of the leaves and separates slightly; if so just soak it up with a little more kitchen paper.
- Spoon the butter out onto a piece of cling film into a rough sausage shape, then fold the sides of the cling film up so it is wrapped up.
- Roll the sausage backwards and forwards a few times so it becomes a nice even log, then set in the fridge to firm up.
- Unwrap the cling film then roll the butter in a sheet of greaseproof paper.
- The butter will keep for two weeks in the fridge but can be stored in the freezer (wrapped in cling film) for up to six months, so you can just slice off a piece when you need it.