Spring has (sort of) arrived here in the Northeast and despite the somewhat chilly temps, the wild garlic is up! It’s delicious, uber local, super sustainable, good for you and completely free. Bring on the tasty, edible weeds.
If you’re not already familiar with wild garlic, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it. Just look for tall patches of green that make the grass around it look lazy in comparison. As it gets bigger, it sometimes does some crazy curling, too.
If you’re not sure if you’ve got the right plant, break off a blade/leaf and give it a sniff. If it smells like garlic or onion, you’re in business. If it does not smell “stinky,” drop it — there are a number of look-alike plants, some of which are toxic. But the rule of thumb is that you can trust anything that smells like garlic or onion (wild garlic and wild onion look very similar – wild ramps are a little more distinctive-looking.)
The entire plant is edible from the leaves to the bulb. You can use the greens just like you would use fresh chives. Just snip them off with some scissors, wash them well in a few changes of water to get off dirt, sand and bugs, and chop them up however you like.
Or you can dig up the whole plant and spend a bit more time cleaning it to make use of the bulb, too. It’s similar to a very small shallot. Just a note that our soil is fairly clay-heavy so the bulbs shown here are pretty small – if your dirt is more friable, yours may well be bigger!
Sidenote: harvesting wild garlic is a great way to keep kids entertained outdoors and teach them about foraging. I did this with my almost-5-year-old the other day – he got really into it and I got twenty minutes to myself and a whole bunch of wild garlic for the soy-ginger marinade I was making. What’s not to like?
I’ll be posting a few recipes soon but in the meantime, I recommend chopping some up and adding them to your next vinaigrette, with or without some fresh herbs.
Or try tossing them with a little olive oil and salt and giving them a quick grill – we did this the other night and had to fight our older son for them!
You could also substitute them in pretty much any recipe that calls for ramps, shallots, scallions or chives with lovely results.
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