Introduce wild garlic to your patch of garden at your own peril. They can be as prolific as mint. If – like me – you find yourself with far too much wild garlic at this time of year, it’s time to find new uses…
- String up bunches of whole plants to dry off, and use the little bulbs later in the year
- Blanch the fresh leaves as greens (in, say, a spicy noodle soup with chicken stock, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and a pinch of five-spice powder)
- Use the leaves for pesto
- Whizz up the whole plant for a salsa verde (with garlic cloves, anchovies, capers, basil, mint, parsley)
- Or when the seed heads appear, use them to make your own capers
Capers. It’s my first year making these: wild garlic “capers” from the seed heads. There are two main ways of doing this, so I’m trying a batch of each (and strictly speaking with wild onions rather than their distant garlic cousins).
Either way, you start by picking the seed heads and removing any of the white flowers (most of my batches had quite a lot of flowers still, because I couldn’t wait) and any remaining stalks.
You could use a scissors or knife to do this de-stalking, though I find it easy enough to pinch the stalk between thumb and forefinger at the point where it connects to the head.
Warning: this is a laborious, fiddly, mindless task. It makes you feel sorry for real caper growers and saffron farmers in the underdeveloped regions of the world. Eventually I found I could do this de-stalking with my eyes closes, or while binge-watching a box set.
You’re left with a small pile of little green heads. Give them a rinse and pat dry.
Then the two preserving methods diverge…
Method #1: pickling
Heat some white wine vinegar in a pan until boiling. Throw in the seed heads, bring back to the boil.
Let the liquid cool for five minutes and pour the lot into sterlised jars. Put the lids on when the jars are cool enough to handle.
Method #2: salting then brining
Pour the de-stalked seed heads into a sterlised jar with a generous amount of rock salt.
Put the lid on and leave for three weeks.
Pour the seed heads into a sieve, rinse well with cold water, pat dry and put them in a sterlised jar.
Cover with malt vinegar – mine isn’t too sharp – and leave to mature for a month or three.