The Stinky Buds of April

WILD GARLIC pesto is in season but so last year these days. Well, it is for me. Pesto goes with pasta but having been recently diagnosed as diabetic my tortellini days are over, at least for the moment.

There are only so many grilled chops you can smear pesto on, soups to enrich or plates to dot artistically with the emerald green paste when in cheffy mode.

Luckily it’s not just the leaves you can harvest. Everything about wild garlic, or ramsons, is edible, from the flower to its bulb.

I’ve been pickling the buds as a kind of caper, or caper berry because they are around the same size, and have an experimental jar on the go. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I already make capers very successfully from nasturtium seeds and elder buds so am hoping for good results. In fact, I don’t bother buying the real thing these days.

You may look at a swathe of ramsons (of all its folk names I prefer Stinking Jenny) and wonder where the buds are. They turn into the beautiful white star blooms later in the season. Right now they are at the bottom of the plant, among the leaves.

You will have heard of the Darling Buds of May; well these are the Stinky Buds of April!

Pick one and enjoy the crisp, garlicky taste which would make, in moderation, a great addition to salads.

I picked 70g (precisely 101 buds, I counted them), enough for a small jar. Now you can ferment them, apparently, but I stuck to pickling. After a good wash they were packed into the sterilised jar and I made up a pickling vinegar by heating up 250mls of white wine vinegar with bay, peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel and two tablespoons each of sugar and sea salt, leaving it to infuse before straining and pouring over.

You need to pack them very tightly as they float up and the top layer will not be fully immersed. I found a plastic lid which went neatly inside the jar. I’ll give it a couple of months before trying.

I’ve flavoured vinegar with the flowers in past years and used the broader leaves to wrap soft cheeses stored in oil so it’s a pretty useful plant.

At the end of the season you can also pickle the seed heads when the flower has faded. I might give this a go but have been warned it’s a fiddly job.

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