Ramsons (Wild Garlic)

ramsons7.jpgApril 12 2008 - I decided to go out in search of Wild Garlic. There are several species of wild onion or garlic that are common in the UK - I was after Ramsons.

What is Ramsons?

Allium ursinum - related to onions, garlic and leeks, this plant is common in damp, shady places, such as wooded river banks.

Unlike many other Alliums, it has quite broad, spear-shaped leaves up to 40cm long.

It has a very strong garlic aroma, noticeable even when just walking past it - if you walk though a patch, crushing some leaves and stems, the smell becomes eye-wateringly strong.

False start

I had hoped to pick some at Botley Quay (the place where I launched my boat), but when I got there, I found that the council had mowed the grass, cutting down all the Ramsons along with it.

ramsons8.jpg

So I headed off instead down the nearby - and charmingly-named - Lovers Lane...

ramsons9.jpg

ramsons10.jpgIt turned out that the lawnmower carnage (herbage?) at the quay was quite serendipitous (at least from my point of view) - this was an excellent spot and down by the river, I found vast swathes of Ramsons.

Picking Ramsons

The whole plant may be eaten - the flowers and buds are said to make an interesting garnish for salads, the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, the root (which is a fairly soft, small white bulb) can be sliced and fried.

The older leaves tend to be more strongly-flavoured than the small, younger ones - which can usually be found growing underneath the carpet of large, mature leaves - here's what I picked - including some flowers, buds and a couple of large leaves for comparison.

ramsons11.jpg

(The bunch of leaves at the lower left are Ground Elder - that I picked on the way home, for use in the sauce for the recipe below)

In The Kitchen

The strong garlic flavour of Ramsons makes this plant an exciting and versatile kitchen resource. The small leaves are mild enough to be eaten raw in salads, the larger ones can be chopped and used to flavour soups, breads, omelettes - or any number of savoury dishes.

Cooking

I decided to make ravioli, stuffed with some of my home-made curd cheese, favoured with Ramsons

ramsons1.jpgSo I started with half of the cheese. A small handful of chopped young leaves and a pinch of salt

ramsons2.jpgI mixed this together, then covered it and put it in the fridge

ramsons3.jpgNext, I made some big sheets of thin pasta dough, placed spoonfuls of the cheese mixture on it on one side.

ramsons4.jpgI brushed the other side with egg, folded it over and pressed down, then cut out the ravioli using a fluted cookie cutter

Then I put them on a floured plate and chilled them in the fridge for half an hour, while I made the sauce.

The sauce was just a chopped onion cooked with some mixed herbs and a tin of chopped plum tomatoes, simmered to reduce a little, then finished off with a little finely-chopped Ground Elder (which is almost exactly like flat leaf parsley when used like this)

ramsons5.jpgThe ravioli were then cooked -a few at a time to prevent them clumping together - for five minutes in a large pot of rapidly-boiling water, before dressing with the sauce.

ramsons6.jpgThe flavour was surprisingly mild - it was there, but not nearly as pungent as I expected - I think I would use a fair bit more of the wild garlic next time,

It was a really satisfying home - made meal!

 

Comments

1. On Monday, January 24, 2011, 01:28 by Ramsons Orangefield

In the Southern Appalachians of the US, these or similar plants are called 'Ramps' and in the spring there is an old tradition of going out in groups and gathering them. There are Ramps festivals in some old towns. Yum(Thank you for that lovely name!

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