Ransoms and bluebells

Wild garlic in the woods
Wild garlic in the woods

Little tells me more forcefully than a walk through the woods at this time of year that we are back in England.  Instead of crisp brown leaves underfoot, from the Autumn before and the Autumn before that, there are narrow damp paths through the rich carpet of undergrowth.

Wild garlic, ransoms, bear's garlic, ramps
Wild garlic, ransoms, bear’s garlic, ramps

And that smell!  As you walk, inevitably bruising the leaves that crowd onto your path, you’ll smell the pungent notes of garlic: because those leaves, topped off by a mass of star-shaped flowers, are wild garlic (or ransoms, ramps or bear’s garlic), and they’re unknown in the part of France where we lived.  In among, competing for the sun which dapples in through the tree canopy, are bluebells.  At the moment, they’re largely still in bud but give them a few days and they too will carpet the woodland floor in a shimmering violet-blue.  And these are our English bluebells.  They’re more graceful than the upright, paler Spanish bluebells that we sometimes saw in France.


The blogosphere is crammed with suggestions for making use of the garlic, among the earliest greenstuffs available after the winter months.  Here‘s what David Lebovitz suggests.

Well, I rely on David to supply ideas for delicious grub, so off into the woods I went for garlic leaves.  I was careful to pick only leaves, rather than yank up entire plants with their tiny bulbs, so that they would grow again next year, though a few bulbs crept into my harvest despite my efforts.  I’d taken my haul  in any case from the woodland edge, as the garlic plants made an escape bid into nearby fields.

And here’s the resulting pasta dish.  Frankly, we were a little disappointed.  It wasn’t the most interesting dish we’d ever eaten.  But I could see the charm of these leaves to those who’d struggled through the winter months on a diet of beans, swede, and the odd bit of salted pork.  Wild garlic has a bright, ‘green’ flavour, mildly garlicky of course, and I will try it again, maybe substituting it for spinach in a tart with walnuts and a sharp cheese for instance.  I always enjoy an excuse to forage for food.

Wild garlic pasta, David Lebovitz style.
Wild garlic pasta, David Lebovitz style.

16 thoughts on “Ransoms and bluebells”

  1. oh yes, the bluebells carpet in the wood near my friends home, how I remember – beautiful souvenir – you must be lucky and living peacefully there – annaxxx


  2. Looks like your world is ahead of ours – here the daffodils are blooming and the trees are beginning to bud out – we are off to the Arboretum within the hour for our annual daffodil photo shoot! Sorry about your pasta dish – but the idea sounds delicious – I am looking forward to being outdoors among the shoots and leaves.


  3. Greetings from the Smoky Mountains where we are staying in a wooden cabin!
    I’ve seen many suggestions back home as to how to use wild garlic in cooking but I’ve not had the courage to do so.
    I agree about the smell this time of year as you walk in the woods- my dad always called it ‘stinking garlic’!


  4. I love the English bluebells! Your photo reminded me how I miss them from the country property on which we lived for 15 years. They are so elegant and colourful and sway ever so gracefully. That looks like a lovely path! Kudos to you for foraging too!


  5. I wish I could be walking in England right now! The only area I’ve walked a lot is the coast of Cornwall-we liked it so well, we’ve gone back 3 times, instead of seeing other parts! Enjoy your beautiful spring!


  6. What beautiful photos… I’m thrilled you have chosen a place that has such beauty and that you continue to share with all of us! And that garlic sounds pretty interesting too. Maybe you can experiment with other recipes!


  7. Sadly our garden has been colonised by Spanish bluebells. I thought I’d dug them all up last year but sadly not. I chop wild garlic up into a slad or mash with cream cheese. Delicious.


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