One of my goals after moving back to the Lake District is to make full use of its natural larder and expand my foraging knowledge. Spring is in full swing, and this year I’ve been searching high and low to find wild garlic. I’ve encountered it before, the heady scent hitting you long before you see the plants themselves, but when I began my search to use them as a cooking ingredient they seemed to guess my intentions and vanish.
An Easter venture exploring behind Skiddaw led to a picnic next to the river just outside of Hesket New Market, and I turned to see its banks were swathed in the stuff. There were also some tender nettles just started to spring forth- double jackpot! I started a picking frenzy much to the bemusement of the sheep in the field next door.
Even the pretty white flowers of wild garlic are edible, it’s these that produce the delicious telltale scent of garlic. Be careful when harvesting nettles, you’re best using gloves. I made do with my woollen gloves as they were all I had with me, but got an annoying sting right on a fingertip as I picked the last sprig.
With my bounty I decided to make a soup, lots of vitamins and so quick to make. It looks like something from a Roahl Dahl book, but tastes fantastic (reminds me of broccoli) and the colour is a glorious emerald green.
This recipe serves 2 hungry foragers.
4 big handfuls of wild garlic leaves
1 handful of young nettle leaves
1 small diced onion
1 small diced carrot
1 small diced potato
1.5 litres of vegetable stock
Oil (olive, vegetable or canola)
1 tsp of butter
1 splash of milk
2 tbsp of crème fraîche (if desired)
1. Make sure you give your wild garlic and nettles a good rinse under the tap before you begin. In a large saucepan heat the butter and oil over a low heat until melted and add the onion, carrot and potato for a few minutes. Add seasoning and then cover with the lid for 10 minutes or so until the vegetables are soft.
2. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add in the nettles for a minute and then add in the wild garlic (I removed any long stalks to help it blend easier), simmer for a further 2 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and liquidise with a stick blender (note, do not wear anything pale or you may risk getting accidentally speckled with pretty green like I did). If you want a completely liquid soup you could pass it through a sieve but you’ll be taken all the goodness and vitamins out that way, the soup still has a nice smooth texture without being strained.
4. Stir in the splash of milk, and the crème fraîche if you like extra creaminess in your soups. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
5. Serve with hot crusty bread. If you picked any of the pretty white flowers you can sprinkle them on top and pretend your Simon Rogan.