Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ramsons



When I was a kid, about twelve years old, I found some beautiful white flowers growing in the dappled woodland around my school. In the lunch break I picked a huge bunch of them and left them in the school cloakroom. The pungent smell of garlic penetrated the entire building. What I had picked were the flowers of the wild garlic plant, known colloquially as ramsons. A few weeks ago the dark green strap leaves appeared in the hedgerow and this week the flowers have burst into life. They like dappled shade best, but along the roadside there are banks of them, frothing and foaming in the May sunshine. All parts of the plant are edible; the leaves are good used in salads, or cooked like spinach, but the revelation is the stems of the flowers…they are crisp and juicy, with a garlic zing that hits the back of your throat. Not acrid at all, but perfumed and long lasting. I used one stem, chopped, added to a risotto near the end of the cooking, to give a mild background garlic flavour that gently pervaded the whole dish.

Growing just near the ramsons you are also likely to find a plant called Jack-by-the-Hedge, or garlic mustard. It has a milder flavour than ramsons, with fresh green, slightly toothed leaves and tiny white flowers. The leaves are excellent added to salads but are delicate and wilt quickly after picking. They make a good sauce for lamb, chopped with a little mint and mixed well with vinegar and sugar – the mint sauce idea that the French find completely perplexing about English cookery!

3 comments:

Sam said...

yes - i just can't seem to convince fred and my other french friends here that the mint sauce thing is a good idea.

johanna said...

Is ramson like wild garlic then? I love that, even if just on a piece of bread with butter. i made some gnocci with it last year as well, which were pretty good. shame i can't seem to find them here - need to go out into the country more ;-)

June said...

If your wild garlic has flower heads like my ramsons then yes! The flower season is short, so you then have to scurry around the hedgerows trying to find the leaves, which can be a bit confusing as by the end of May everything looks a bit the same!

 
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