This bank holiday weekend saw my family and I enjoying our annual ramble through the bluebell woods in Dutton. I happened upon this glorious place one sunny afternoon whilst delivering herbs to Lodge Lane nurseries. As I approached the entrance to the nursery I became aware of a border collie resting on the other side of the lane. I was intrigued by such a sight and, overcome by a Famous Five moment, I decided to investigate. My diary entry reads;
‘ It’s a gloriously warm spring day. We go for a walk in the bluebell woods where a breathtakingly beautiful, rich carpet of blue lies beneath the ancient beech trees. A tinkling brook runs through, like a silver ribbon, enticing us further into this enchanted wood. Magic hangs in the air as the fronds of filigree ferns reach out, slowly unfurling to touch the hazy sunlight.
As I stand, hushed and in awe of nature’s spectacular beauty, I realise that at this moment, there is no- where else I would rather be.’
Each year I look forward, with eager anticipation, to the arrival of the bluebells and, each year it takes my breath away. Wild garlic grows amongst the bluebells, revelling in the damp habitat created by the ancient beech trees. White, drumstick flowers, similar to alliums, grow amongst strappy green leaves, easily identified by their pungent, garlicky smell. I always pick a handful, eager to capture the first harvest of the countryside, I take them home to make a kicking garlic paste. A celebration of spring leaves plucked from the garden or hedgerow.
Wild garlic paste blend a handful of washed wild garlic leaves with enough olive oil, approx 250 ml, to create a smooth paste.
I have read recipes that suggest garlic leaves ‘have a milder taste than chives.’ I disagree, this stuff is wild! Add a small amount to pasta for a taste sensation, or use as a replacement for horse radish. On freshly baked bread it is delicious, especially with a topping of melted cheese.
For me the first picking of wild garlic signifies the start of the growing season. From now on I look forward to an endless supply of nature’s tasty treats, chives, parsley and celery leaf are all ripe for harvesting and the first peas and potatoes are well under way in the vegetable garden. This is the time of promise, of good things, there for the taking.