A Walk in the Garlic Woods

may24-1We keep smelling garlic whenever we’re driving through the woods that cover the hill above Ruby’s playgroup. It reminds me of the urgent need I suddenly had to head up there when I was 5 months pregnant with her. Even though it was a rainy day, it seemed highly necessary at the time to gather wild garlic for a frittata. My memory when it comes to food is always excellent of course and I remember the frittata being worth the rainy forage.

I thought we may be a bit late for garlic this year but Ruby loves woods as much as I do and liked the idea of looking for garlic after playgroup, especially as we were going to make pesto with it. On a hot afternoon, a wander in shady, lush woodland seemed appealing anyway. But as soon as we went through the gate into the woods, the smell was unmistakeably tempting and the whole wood seemed carpeted in garlic. Paths threaded through the white flowers, the sun cast a lovely, dappled light through the trees and a fallen tree trunk was a great picnic spot.

Back home we blended the leaves with pine-nuts, pumpkin seeds, olive oil and parmesan. Ruby loved helping with it all and after we whizzed it up to a fragrant, green pesto, I encouraged her to taste it and say if she thought it needed more of anything. I was feeling particularly proud of my little hunter-gatherer/chef.  She tasted it carefully, thought for a moment, and gave her considered opinion: “Next time, I think we should add less of the green leaves.” Serves me right for feeling smug.

We all loved eating the pesto with pasta though. I scattered a few of the white flowers on top and it was perfect  eaten outside on a sunny evening.

Recipe for Wild Garlic Pesto:

This made enough for a generous amount with pasta for 3 of us and a large jar to keep in the fridge.

100g wild garlic leaves & a few of the white roots/ bulbs

50g pine nuts or pumpkin seeds (I used a mix)

400ml extra-virgin olive oil

70g grated parmesan, grana padano or similar local cheese

A little salt and sugar to taste if you think it needs it.

Whizz the wild garlic, pine nuts and olive oil in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar. Remove to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Taste and season. Great with pasta (add a few green beans and new potatoes to your pasta to have it Ligurian style) or add to bruschetta, sandwiches, roast fish.  A few of the white wild garlic flowers sprinkled onto the pasta looks pretty.

Any other ideas of what to do with home-made pesto? Would love to hear them.

2 thoughts on “A Walk in the Garlic Woods

  1. I ate wild garlic pesto in Copenhagen. My husband is Danish and my mother in law often use some good Nordic Cuisine recipes. I appreciate that you kept some Italian ingredients (Olive Oil and Parmesan), I like the Nordic combination of rapeseed oil and nuts…but I am Italian and these are my favourite ingredients

    • I’m really interested in Nordic cooking at the moment too – just making some crispbreads with rye flour. Nordic food and Italian foods are my two favourites at the moment so this is very interesting to hear! Would love to hear of any Nordic/Italian influenced dishes that you come up with.


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