Last weekend I decided to take advantage of the sun and go for a stroll down the tow path past Kew to Richmond. It was a glorious afternoon and one of the thrills at this time of year is gathering willd garlic which grows in abundance on the towpath. The rich slightly acidic clay soil is perfect for this delicacy and nibbling the leaves and white flowers on the way home gets your mouth in shape for a simple supper of gently simmered wild garlic added to pasta tossed in a good quality olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan or blue cheese. Alternatively, it can be a good substitute for Basil to make a tasty pesto.
Allium ursinum or ramsoms often grow alongside bluebells in deciduous woodlands with moist soils, preferring slightly acidic conditions. It flowers before deciduous trees leaf in the spring, filling the air with their characteristic garlic-like scent. The flower stem is triangular in cross-section and the leaves are broadly lanceolate similar to those of the lily of the valley. Check first by gently rubbing the leaves in your hands an d smelling the characteristic smell.
When I visited Jekka’s Herb farm near Bristol it was during our discussion about herbs that she told me that Florence Nightingale used to mix this with English white wine to make a concoction and use it as an antiseptic on the wards.
Hence, with its antibacterial, antibiotic, antiseptic and anti … well, just about everything, properties, it makes sense to pack as much into your diet as you can. The headline health benefit of garlic is its effectiveness in reducing blood pressure and, hence, heart disease and the risk of stroke. Although all garlic has this property, wild garlic has the greatest effect on lowering blood pressure.
Jekka Mcvicar for those who don’t know has a know established reputation of being a herb guru but describes herself as an organic herb grower. She cultivates more than 500 varieties of herbs and has written an excellent illustrated book discussing the culinary and medical use of herbs aswell as an acclaimed cookbook. She shows at Chelsea Flower Show and has been visited by well known chefs such as Raymond Blanc, Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal. Her big claim to fame is that she played and sang at the first Glastonbury in 1970 which impressed my daughter on our last visit. With credentials like those, visiting her at her farm near Bristol where you can listen to one of her talks , browse her herbs now in raised beds and termed a Herbetum and more importantly have chance to purchase some potted herbs is something I enjoy immensely and thoroughly recommend to keen gardeners. I have to say I make a point of visiting the farm at least once a year.