Love, love, love wild garlic, or ‘ramsons’ as I was brought up to call these leaves. I do enjoy a bit of foraging; food always seems to be a bit tastier if you’ve gone out and picked it from it’s native habitat (whether that’s actually true or not).
This is not only a twist on pesto because it uses ramsons rather than the traditional basil, but I have also switched out the pine nuts for walnuts.
If I could just work out what British cheese to replace the parmesan with and maybe use verjus rather than lemon I could swap out the original Italian recipe for an entirely British one – maybe that’s a challenge I can look into!
I have only given a recipe for enough for a small jar full – this should be sufficient to coat enough pasta for a meal for 4 – 6 people or for at least a couple of meals’ use as an added ingredient.
I have done this because you shouldn’t keep it for more than a couple of days. This way you don’t waste the parmesan and the ramsons you’ve taken care and time to forage by making so much it’s in danger of going off before you can use it all. I confess that I am very lucky in that my supply of wild garlic is close to where I work so I can go pick a fresh handful each lunch when I want to cook with it.
Something interesting about ramsons is that the underside of the leaf is hydroscopic – that is, it naturally repels water. Why it’s evolved to have the underside, not the top do this I can’t imagine! However, it does mean it’s a bit tricky to wash 🙂
7 tips for finding ramsons
Ramsons are usually found somewhere damp (but not waterlogged)
They are more likely to be next to a running stream than a static lake, though can be by either
Will be sited somewhere between deep, wooded cover to dappled shade
You’ll possibly smell them before you see them – a woodier-smelling version of garlic
In early-season the leaves are like bunches of tulip leaves
Later on in the season, pretty white flower heads (a ball shape comprised of multiple little-start shaped flowers) appear – these are also edible!
In towns and villages there is often a ‘Ramson Road’ or ‘Ramson Wood’. In times past areas were named after the wild garlic and they’ve usually kept their names to the present day – use this bit of local knowledge as they could well be still growing in that area
If you go foraging, please abide by these four ‘unwritten rules’ to ensure that the area and the plants you take from remain healthy:
take only what you need, no more
don’t over take from the plant: better to take a little from several plants than wipe out one. This includes nuts and berries (not because you’re damaging the plant itself, but because it’s part of the local ecosystem and its fruiting bodies are needed to feed the local wildlife and continue its propogation of new plants
don’t take the original plant (ie don’t dig any roots up) or break it irrevocabl
leave the area as little disturbed as possible
That way there will be some more when you next go back!
- Food processor and/or pestle and mortar
- Jar, bottle or other container to store in the fridge
- A large bunch of ramsons (wild garlic), washed thoroughly – about 40g to 45g
- Walnuts – 40g
- Parmesan, grated – 40g
- Salt – a teaspoon
- Garlic – a small clove, or half a normal sized one, chopped a little (just to make it easier to pound in the mortar)
- Olive oil – about 6 tablespoons
- Lemon juice (from a fresh lemon!) – about 1 -2 teaspoons (depending on your taste)
Either use a pestle and mortar throughout or complete step 1 in a food processor.
I have tried to make this recipe completely in a food processor and found that I needed to do the later steps in the pestle and mortar anyway. It never seems to break up the leaves enough for me – they stick round the edges of the processor and under the blade and still need pounding. However, you may have a better performing food processor than I do though!
- Place all the ingredients in and whizz to a medium-fine consistency
- Taste test and add a little more salt and/or lemon if needed
Pestle and mortar method
- Pound the leaves, garlic and the walnuts together in the processor in the mortar (you may need to do this in batches if your mortar is small)
- Add the salt and two tablespoons of the oil and bash together in the mortar
- Add the parmesan and muddle together with the pestle (if you have a very large mortar you can add the rest of the oil now)
- Add a teaspoon of the lemon juice, muddle again and taste – add more salt and/or lemon juice as needed
- Transfer to a large jar and mix in the rest of the oil
- Keep in a container in the fridge for up to two-three days