Here in Fife the season for wild garlic or ramsons has begun. Ramsons are also known as bears or wood garlic and these names give the clues as to where this delicious wild harvest can be found. It grows best in the dappled shade of deciduous woods and around the shrubby edges of woodland; often interspersed with bluebells. If you cant find them or are not sure of the identity a good sniff will usually find them out.
The ramson is a member of the allium family and has endless uses in the kitchen including using the leaves wilted like spinach and making variations of pesto with a good hard cheese, pine nuts or walnuts.
All parts of the plant are edible in that they will not do any harm but the bulbs are very small and are not much used in the kitchen It should also be noted that it is illegal in the UK to dig up wild ramsons so be warned!
Luckily it is mainly the leaves that have the best flavour and are most useful in cooking. It is best to collect them as early as possible in the season, concentrating on the smaller younger leaves. I am experimenting this year with freezing some of the leaves - I use ramsons to make a wild ramson vinegar so any changes to the texture caused by freezing will not effect the outcome of the vinegar. I will let you know how the freezing experiment goes. The white flowers are also edible and are a wonderful garnish particularly on egg dishes - very little beats freshly scrambled eggs topped with ramson confetti unless it is an omelette with chopped, wild garlic leaves through it.
This recipe for ramson and walnut pesto is a slight variation on one taken from Denis Cotters book 'wild garlic, gooseberries and me';
100g young ramson leaves including stalks
75g walnut pieces
8tbsp good olive oil
salt and pepper - to taste
a good squeeze of lemon juice - again to taste
put ramsons, nuts and oil into food processor and blend to required consistency. Add seasoning and lemon juice to taste. Fabulous stirred through pasta or with lightly toasted pitta bread.
Enjoy the ramson season. As soon as the tree canopy fills out they will be gone (except for mine - safely tucked away in the freezer).