To say that I'm not a great forager is an understatement! Of course I've picked the odd blackberry in my time and, when I was little, I used to collect winkles from rock pools at the beach to take home to cook but I've always felt a bit nervous about helping myself to anything from a field, forest or hedgerow when I am not one thousand percent sure that what I'm picking is what I think it is. So I usually do my 'foraging' in the safety of a Pick your Own farm shop!
While my hubby and I were out and about over the Easter weekend, though, we came across a lovely crop of wild garlic and, having recently seen some fabulous recipes involving this ingredient, I decided to throw caution to the wind and pick some. Wild garlic grows everywhere in Northumberland at this time of year - it flourishes in damp, forested areas and we've got just the right conditions for it so it's really common. I was certain that what I was harvesting was wild garlic as the foliage had a characteristic garlicky smell so I felt confident that wouldn't do me any harm if I ate it.
After a half hour of scrambling and picking that included a scary encounter with a couple of spiders, my hubby and I arrived home with a few good handfuls of pungent smelling leaves. I hadn't cooked with wild garlic before but felt like I needed to make something delicious to repay our efforts. After a bit of research I found that I could make pesto with it which sounded great - I make pesto regularly with basil so I decided to follow my normal pesto recipe but substitute the basil for wild garlic instead.
The result was pesto that tasted very like that made with basil but with a stronger garlicky edge to it. I served mine stirred into pasta but it could be used just like any other pesto - spread on crostini (or toast) or as a flavouring for soup or vegetables, for example.
We managed to collect quite a bit of wild garlic so have made enough pesto to last us a few weeks but, for me, the best bit is that the wild garlic didn't cost us a penny! How good is that? Also, the experience of foraging then preparing it to eat was really fun and has given my confidence a slight boost. I think I'll take myself off now to buy a book and research other foraging possibilities!
Wild Garlic Pesto
The pesto will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, but if storing, ensure it is in an airtight jar and that the pesto is completely covered with oil to keep it fresh.
75g pine nuts
150g wild garlic leaves
2 cloves of bulb garlic
200ml rapeseed oil (plus extra if storing - see above)
75g finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1. Heat a frying pan and toast the pine nuts until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
2. Put the wild garlic leaves, garlic cloves, pine nuts and 100ml of the oil into a food processor with a chopping blade and blitz to a paste.
3. Transfer the paste to a bowl and stir in the remainder of the oil, the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.
4. Store in an airtight jar and pour in additional oil to ensure the pesto is covered with oil to retain its freshness.