Wild garlic: A herb good enough to bring Europe back together

There doesn’t seem to be a country in Europe that doesn’t have a wild garlic dish

Wild garlic: get it now, before it’s gone. Photograph: iStock

Wild garlic: get it now, before it’s gone. Photograph: iStock

 

If love will tear us apart, as Ian Curtis of Joy Division sang in 1980, what will bring us together? This is a time of food turbulence, in terms of climate change and ever-growing greenhouse gases that impact our food diversity.

We often imagine our own age to be one of greater diversity that previous ones, but this is not always the case. Irish food has become less diverse in terms of what we have eaten since the introduction of the potato around 1585. Many of the vegetables we ate before the arrival of the potato, such as globe artichokes and charlock (wild mustard), are rarely seen nowadays. 

However, one common foodstuff, which seems to unite both Ireland and much of Europe (and even farther afield) is wild garlic. The season for wild garlic is fast coming to an end, so do not delay if you want to preserve some of this wonderful ancient food for later in the year.

I’ve written before about making wild garlic pesto, but just to recap: blend 150g wild garlic with 300ml of extra virgin rapeseed oil. Add 75g of hazelnuts and 75g of good-quality Irish farmhouse cheddar (such as Hegarty’s or Coolattin) and blend until smooth. Season as desired.

Wild garlic oil is another good way of preserving the herb. Place 100g of wild garlic and 300ml of light oil in a food processor and blend. Heat gently and then pass it through a fine sieve to remove the solids. Freeze the oil for maximum freshness if your are not using immediately.

There doesn’t seem to be a country in Europe, from Denmark to Turkey and Russia to England, that does not have a dish that includes wild garlic. The oldest evidence of eating wild garlic comes from the Mesolithic settlement of Barkaer in Denmark. But its existence in Ireland predates people, so we must assume our ancestors chewed on it when they arrived more than 10,000 years ago.

Wild garlic and oysters, anyone? Or mussels steamed with wild garlic? Both work beautifully and will manifest the Irish Mesolithic in anyone. Why is it that potatoes and lamb stew are the popular images of Irish food and not these more ancient foods?

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