I went down to woods today and had a big surprise! Wild garlic had flowered and the woodlands were carpeted in its lush growth. It was Jean-Francois who returned from fly fishing yesterday evening to announce that he had spent the afternoon smelling garlic blossom aroma in a magical, leafy gorge on the Saison River. We arrived there early this morning and breakfasted on thermos coffee and raw wild garlic flower and fresh bread before Jean Francois made another try at the giant salmon he missed last evening and succeeded catching today (more on that later).
Wild garlic, Ramsons or Ail des Ours in french is a real sign that spring has arrived and blooms between April and June. For me it is one of the most beautiful sights of nature equal in splendour to woodland bluebells in May. Its easy to recognise and the smell makes sure no mistakes are made.
The leaves are slender and shaped like a spear and the flowers are like a posy of delicate star-shape white blossoms but the giveaway sign is the strong, pungent garlicky smell that hits you perhaps even before you see the plant. Once the plant flowers, the leaves lose their pungency and become tough but all in all the Ramson is much milder than the bulb variety but the flavour is far more interesting and complex.
The leaves can be used young in a salad (before the flowers bloom) or later braised in a little butter or olive oil as a substitute for spinach or just chopped up like chives to add flavour to gratin, sauces and soup and even an aioli. The flowers taste stronger and are great in salad or braised in butter and served on toasted bread or just cooked in a simple omelette - sublime.