bear garlic/wild garlic/ramps growing in the glen......
not only do i live in the middle of a blackberry forest, come august, in springtime it is a nettle woods, and when spring segues into early summer, its a forest of wild garlic, ramps, or l’ail d’ours–bear garlic: leaves of glossy lush green-ness that exhudes the aroma of garlic, of strong green leafy garlickness. Bear garlic, aka ramps, or wild garlic, is not for the culinary faint of heart. Its not even garlic, despite its name: bear garlic is a wild leek, wild garlic is in my forest too, and i might do a posting of it before the season ends…..it looks different, with thin stems, and smells more garlicky and strangely more delicate. Ramps, bear garlic, man these things are wild!
I’ve been informally polling friends about how they use their foraging cache: raw in salads, check! chopped in omelets, check! shredded with new potatoes, baby peas, olive oil and goats cheese. My Himalayan friend Mridula says that in India it is used to wrap spice-coated fish; gardener friend Steven stuffs chicken with it, and Judy who grew up in Fiji and the Caribbean cooks it like a stir-fry; as for me, i’m thinking about adding it to Iranian style rice pilau, scrambling it softly with eggs, or kneaded into country bread, as i usually do rosemary, or thyme, or dill. but really: no matter what else i cook and eat and frolick in garlic wise, in truth: i’m all about pesto.
pesto was my introduction to wild garlic: in a farmers market in strasbourg, france; a little stall was selling jars and offering tastes: it was ardent, it was fragrant, it was strong, nearly unbearably so. but, garlic crazy-lady that i’ve always been, i loved it. i bought jars and gave them to everyone i knew; many liked it in varying degrees. Others requested I never ever mention wild garlic again.
but i was undaunted and each season when the bright green leaves start growing abundantly, determinedly, i’m there with a bag to fill. each and every day. until the season is gone.and there are hints of the blackberries to come….
simple wild garlic/ramp/bear garlic pesto:
wild garlic pesto: freshly made. can you smell it?
big handfuls of fresh unblemished wild garlic, ramps, bear garlic, cut up coarsely
enough olive oil to puree the leaves with
a small handful coarsely chopped walnuts or pinenuts (about 1 tablespoon)
Several tablespoons grated grana/parmigiano/asiago or other hard cheese
Several pinches salt
1. put it all in a food processor or blender and whirl, turning it off and on, so that all the leaves have a chance to puree evenly.
2. taste for seasoning; i might be so strong it will take your breath away. get a nice chunk of bread and eat it spread on the bread; if you’re going to fall in love, this might do it.
3. place in a bowl or jar and drizzle olive oil over the top. i like to eat it fresh tossed with al dente pasta, green beans and potatoes as you’d do with a classic basil pesto in Liguria. It freezes well; pour into a jar, drizzle olive oil over the top, pop on the lid and freeze; should last up to about 3-6 months in the deep-freeze but really: you’ll want to nosh it sooner than that.
Soft Scramble of Ramps and Eggs
potato salad in bear garlic/ramp dressing
Potato Salad with Tangy, Green, Ramp/Bear Garlic Dressing
Meanwhile, to eat today, this very moment when the ramps are fresh and you’re wondering what to do with them: potato salad. green, green, and very tangy, potato salad.
About 1 lb new potatoes, or fingerlings, ratte, other small delicious waxy spuds, peeled or not, as you prefer
About 10 leaves of ramp/bear garlic, coarsely cut up
About 3 heaping tablespoons mayonaise
About 3 heaping tablespoons yogurt
1-2 tespoons brined capers with a few droplets or more, as desired, of their juice
A few drops of lemon juice
About a tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are just cooked through and no more; drain well and set aside. Hard boil the eggs; i often just put them in with the potatoes when the spuds are about halfway cooked.
To peel the eggs, crack each against the other, rinse under very cold water, and peel. Rinse again to rid the eggs of any shells.
In a blender or food processor, whirl the ramp/bear garlic with the mayo, yogurt, capers, lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste. The dressing should be quite a nice green, and very aromatic. that is to say, it smells like a garlic forest.
Slice the potatoes, chopped the eggs, and combine. Let cool so it doesnt melt the dressing; when cool enough spoon in the dressing and mix well; garnic with thinly sliced fresh bear garlic/ ramp leaves, and eat now or chill until ready to serve.
Soft Scramble of Ramps and Eggs
Serves 2, multiply at will
Big handful of ramps: thinly sliced, about 20 leaves or as desired
2-3 tablespoons butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten with a tablespoon or two of water or milk added
1 tablespoon cream cheese
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste–i’m quite fond of toasted, coarsely crushed Szechuan peppercorns
In a small omelet or other frying pan, such as nonstick, warm about half the butter then add the ramps; melt together, over medium light heat, rather than fry. When ramps are wilted, pour in the eggs and add the cream cheese; sprinkle with salt to taste.
Cook over medium heat, quickly, as the eggs form curds lift up the edges and let the liquid run under; stir a bit to be sure the cream cheese is melting into the eggs and ramps. If desired, when the eggs are about halfway through add the rest of the butter–though this adds deliciously smooth richness, the ramps and eggs are good without it, too. Use your concience or desire to decide.
Do not overcook, serve it in satiny curds, along with crisp crunchy pain levain which really:don’t need buttering at all: the eggs are lusciously buttery enough. More on the toast will simply obscure.
Aromatic Fresh and Zingy Ramp Mustard
Aromatic Fresh and Zingy Ramp Mustard
Puree coarsely chopped fresh ramps–say, a big handful, 20 or so leaves, with about 1/2 cup or so tasty tangy mustard: for this i used half spicy and slightly sweet, one of my culinary souvenirs from Poland, and half a not-too-strong Dijon shlepped back in my suitcase from France. (my mustard shelf is my international treasure.) Whirl together in a food processor or blender, or simply chop the ramps finely and stir in with the mustard/s.
Slather onto pan browned fabulous sausages or fish as it is grilling. and yes, i eat it by the spoonful.
will last up to a week or so, covered, in fridge.
Green, Green, and Aromatic to the point of delicious reeking, Puree of Bear-Garlic (Ramps) Soup
Makes about 6 bowlfuls
1 potato, peeled and diced
6 cups or 1 litre broth/stock: chicken, vegetable, or a personal favourite, porcini (buy the stock cubes when you find em; speciality stores or if you’re lucky to be in italy, a good time to stock up and shlep back!)
Small handful green beans or 2 green runner beans (Romano beans), cut up
Big big handful ramps/bear garlic: lots. 20-30 big leaves, or 40 small ones, just a couple of handfuls. or as much as you desire, can tolerate, cut up coarsely
About 1 cup/250ml heavy (double) cream, more if you like, or less if you prefer; the rich cream helps cut the shock of the bear garlic, rounds it out
Combine potato chunks and stock/broth in a saucepan and bring to the boil; simmer until potato is tender, about 10 minutes, then add green beans until they are tenderish but still bright green, a minute or two.
Puree in blender or food processor with the ramps/bear garlic, until it is smoothish. Salt and white pepper to taste and add cream.
Serve hot, warm, or cool, as a sort of garlic forest vichychoise.
Puree of Bear-Garlic (Ramp) Soup
Mediterranean Bread Salad--Panzanella--with Bear Garlic/Ramps
Mediterranean Bread Salad with Ramps/Bear Garlic and Black Oil-Cured Olives
About 8 ounces dried country bread, pain levain
Several cloves chopped garlic
About 10 to 15 big bear garlic/ramp leaves, cut into thin strips
2 nice ripe tomatoes, diced (or 3, or 4, depending on the season and state of the tomatoes)
About 10 oil-cured black olives, pitted and cut into several pieces each
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or to taste
A few drops of white wine vinegar, or to taste
Salt to taste
In a large bowl place the bread then pour water over it. Leave for a few minutes to rehydrate–the exact amount of time depends on how dry the bread was to start with) then drain and squeeze out the excess liquid. Discard the squeezed out liquid, and gently combine the bread with the remaining ingredients. Mix well and set aside to combine flavours, until you are ready to eat. Taste for seasoning.
Good the next day too, possibly better.
Ramp-Wrapped Asiany-Mustardy Fish
Alas, no picture, we ate it before i had a chance to snap. it was so good, i must include recipe: if i make it again will snap and post. Meanwhile, delish just delish. Instead of ramps/bear garlic, if its not the season, i’d wrap the fish around several times with a couple of tender-ish green leek leaves. The ramps/bear garlic/leek leaves don’t really stay on the fish, rather keep it moist, keeps the mustard from burning or sticking, and end up as both tender leaves and crispy bits in the pan.
4 thick cod fillet pieces, 4-6 ounces/ 125g-175g each
4-5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 -1 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce (or regular and adjust salt accordingly)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
About 2 tablespoons mildish Dijon or Polish type mustard, or–if you’ve made the ramp mustard, use that
About 20 ramp/bear garlic/tender leek leaves (blanch them if too tough to bend)
Rinse the cod fillets in cold water, then dry; sprinkle with salt, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil, rubbing it all in well. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes.
Spread each fillet with mustard, then lay each one out onto several ramp/bear garlic/leek leaves, and wrap up. The fish won’t be completely covered, which is okay, the leaves come off a bit when cooking.
Heat a nonstick frying pan just large enough to fit the fish, smear with a whisper of olive oil, then place the wrapped fillets into the pan. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, until the fish begins to turn opaque then turn over. Cover with lid, squirt with a few drops of lemon juice, then remove from heat, and let fish finish cooking in its own steam.
Eat right away.
freshly pickled wild garlic from the forest