Spring brings with it some of my most anticipated flavours of the year. One of them is wild garlic.
Before I moved to Switzerland, I have to admit that I was not so familiar with it. My first real encounter here was walking down the Uetliberg and getting the strong aroma of Garlic in the air, but even then I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of plant it was and whether it was edible. That all ended when I found it again shopping at the market.
So what can I do with it?
The perfect word to describe it is fragrant. It does not have the sharpness of a garlic clove, but adds a subtle aroma, great for cooking. It lends itself really well to a variety of dishes from a classic pesto, to risotto and basically any other dish where you would include garlic. One thing I try to make sure when working with wild garlic, is to make sure I don’t overcook it. That means adding it in near the end of the cooking process otherwise it wilts too much, almost like spinach.
It also lends itself extremely well to sauces – as suggested by the pesto – not just because of its flavour, but also because of the exciting and vibrant green colour. Just a few ideas are a wild garlic mayonnaise or oil, mixing it into a herb butter, or using it in a salsa verde.
My favourite springtime dish
My absolutely favourite dish to make with wild garlic, however, is one I have to wait for until close to the end of the season. It is one of my biggest comfort foods and a take on an Italian classic: «Pasta al olio e pepperoncino».
I like to use pici pasta and the pepperoncini stays the same. Everything else is different. The wild garlic trades places with the normal garlic and I add samphire (whose season starts in May, which is the overlap). It then gets dressed in the pan with a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice before being moved into a bowl where it meets some high quality oil and coarse sea salt.
Then all you need to do is sit outside in the fresh spring sun with that amazing bowl of goodness and a cool drink (I would go for a chinotto with freshly squeezed orange), contemplating how life can be pretty great too when you don’t overcomplicate it.
Where can you get it?
The season for wild garlic – also called Ramson, Bear Garlic or Bärlauch (in German) – is between March and May and the exciting thing is that you can collect it right on your doorstep. Hotspots in Zurich include: Uetliberg (as I have already mentioned), Käferberg, Zurichberg, Rigiblick and Werd Island. Here is some information to get you started.
The pictures here were all on the Uetliberg, taken in the middle of February so that we can post the article before the season gets fully underway. The leaves are very fresh and if you rip them apart they already give off the distinctive garlic aroma.
If you plan on trying to collect it for yourself, then be extremely careful because the leaves look very similar to the highly poisonous Lily of the Valley. Make sure you inform yourself about the differences between the two plants before you set off. If you are unsure, then it is better to leave it and buy it fresh from the market or anywhere else you can get it fresh and local.
Hier findest du eine Sammlung deutscher Bärlauchrezepte, die wir noch immer lieben.