As it is the beginning of the foraging season, the talented team at The Strawberry Tree Restaruant at Brooklodge & Macreddin Village have kindly shared their recipe for their Maceddin Village Wild Garlic Pesto.
The Strawberry Tree’s Wild Garlic Pesto
WHAT GOES IN
- 50g Fresh Wild Garlic Leaves
- 25g pine, cashew, hazel or chestnuts… your choice
- 200ml Organic Olive Oil or better still Irish Organic Rapeseed Oil
- 40g grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano or really mature Coolea Farmhouse Cheese
- Organic Black Pepper and Sea Salt
HOW IT GOES
Simple recipes are not always the easiest. It’s taken us years to get this just right. Any of the above Nuts, Oils or Cheeses will make a fabulous fresh spring tasting Pesto…we’re just not saying exactly which go into our Strawberry Tree Wild Garlic Pesto!
So, the easy way is to blitz the nuts and half the oil in a food processor and add in the grated cheese. Then add the wild garlic and blitz with the remaining oil to the right consistency. Then simply season, to your taste. As a fresh Oil Dressing, it’ll work, every time
HOW TO FINISH
Pour into sterilised Kilner Jars and keep in the fridge or a really cool, dark pantry. More so than with Basil Pesto, there is a reaction between the Wild Garlic, Oil and especially metal lids…hence the Kilner
WHAT YOU GET
Is a serious Pesto; a deep dark green Pesto with attitude, a Pesto that will slap you in the face with the unmistakably strong taste of wild natural garlic and its lush woodland dwellings. What you also get is ‘bottled spring and summer’…to give as a present to your friends, if you are able! If not, use it to impress as a dressing over salads, bake into your favourite bread dough, add to any pasta dish or mix with butter and slip under the skin of a chicken roast…the list goes on, just use your imagination and go Wild!
THE WILD GARLIC HARVESTING ~ MARCH/APRIL
There are a number of different types of Wild Garlic growing in Ireland but Wild Garlic Ramsons are the most widespread and most frequently mentioned in traditional food culture. “Creamh is identified as one of three species of Wild Garlic native to Ireland and mentioned amongst edible herbs used as a condiment or relish for food in the Life of St. Kevin and the Brehon Laws”. Both the leaves and flowers have a robust garlic flavour.
Where to find Wild Garlic
It’s a common plant all over the island and it thrives in mixed woodlands and other damp, shady places like country lanes and near streams. In the right place it will be widespread and easy to spot.
How to pick Wild Garlic
Do not dig up the bulbs and never strip a plant of all its leaves or remove all the flowers or plants in a small area. Pick mid-sized to larger leaves and flower heads that have blossomed. Baskets are ideal for gathering (particularly for the flowers) but if you plan to preserve the leaves choose roomy plastic bags. Pack loosely and do not press down or you may bruise the tender leaves and flowers.
Growing from a surprisingly small translucent bulb, broad, pointed, bright green leaves push up through the soil to gradually form a multi-leaved bunch and are followed by a single flower stalk bearing several small white blossoms. Most years the harvest begins in mid-March and continues until mid-April. This period may vary according to local conditions or a spring that arrives early or late. Usually you can harvest over a month.
Some people prefer the young milder leaves; others wait until the plant flowers, and the flavour is stronger, and gather leaves and flowers at the same time.
The flower of the Wild Garlic is highly identifiable and for the first time forager this is when this wild food should be harvested. Prior to this, it might be mistaken for the leaves of the Wild Lily of the Valley, and other wild plants. Some of these are, of course not pleasant to eat or indeed poisonous.
A good means of positively identifying Wild Garlic is grinding the leaves between one's fingers, which produces a pungent garlic-like smell. The leaves of Lily of the Valley come from a single purple stem, while the Wild Garlic leaves have individual green-coloured stems. Remember when out foraging if in doubt don’t…