Wild Garlic Foraging near Fowey Hall – and a Pesto Recipe
Graphic and web designer Melissa Love is the wife of the general manager of Fowey Hall Hotel, Chris Williams. Here she shares her experiences of wild garlic foraging in Cornwall with her young daughters and reveals her favourite home-made pesto recipe using the allium.
Says Melissa: “One of the first things we spotted when we moved to the Cornish coast was the wild garlic (Allium ursinum) that blankets river banks and footpaths close to the sea from early March until the end of April.
“The season is short, but as soon as we smell the aromatic ransoms or spot the delicate star-shaped white flowers, you’ll find us gathering our favourite free wild food with abandon, bags in hand.
“When people think of Cornish cuisine – apart from pasties – they daydream about the abundant seafood and clotted cream. We’re also blessed with an embarrassment of fresh crab, river-grown mussels and locally caught lobster. I’m not complaining – I eat more than my fair share.
“But one of the first things you notice, as a newcomer, is the lush semi-tropical plant life. Ferns creep, tiny daisies and wild herbs take root in every Cornish stone wall, all flourishing under gentle drizzle or the damp sea mist.”
Melissa’s Top Tips for Finding and Cooking with Wild Garlic
• Wild garlic is not always easy to find but it is easy to smell. Look (and sniff!) in woodland and along hedgerows, near riverbeds and streams (as long as it’s not too damp underfoot, although if it is bit boggy, look just a little further afield at slightly drier ground).
• Keep your eyes peeled for bluebells – where you find these, you tend to find wild garlic, if it hasn’t been too dry.
• Don’t be tempted to throw away the white stalks – they are lovely, with a slightly stronger flavour than leaves.
• Make brilliant bright-green garlic soups or wild garlic pesto – super-easy to prepare (it takes about 15 minutes) and to store (fresh in a little Kilner jar with a layer of olive oil over, or frozen in ice-cube trays, if you have a glut).
• If you like to follow exact recipes, look away now – making pesto is about tasting, testing and adjusting the main ingredients to get it just how you like…
Wild Garlic Pesto
Wild garlic (can be replaced with rocket or fresh basil)
200g packet of pine nuts
Parmesan cheese to taste
Seasalt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fill a mini-blender to the top with wild garlic and add a generous slug of olive oil to lubricate and a small handful of crunchy sea salt to provide ‘grindage’.
Blitz until roughly chopped then add the pine nuts and Parmesan and blitz a bit more until everything is combined but not too finely textured (you may need a little extra olive oil at this stage to loosen things up). Alternatively, use a pestle and mortar (and lots of elbow grease).
Season to taste.