Today is the official first day of Spring. It is also the Spring Equinox and Celebrate Our Forests Day (the latter is basically a celebration for the #SaveOurForests campaign, but it’s also World Forest Day tomorrow). So what did I do to mark the day? I went woodland foraging of course.
Spring is slow to reach the North East. By now Southerners are getting bored of daffodils while ours are just poking their heads out. But it is definitely here. My local ‘proper’ wood is Croxdale wood. It’s on a steep hillside (known as a dene round these parts) above the river Wear, and there’s a steep and muddy footpath running through it that also forms part of the Weardale Way. It’s mainly beech. So far I haven’t been lucky on the mushroom front but it is very good for ramsons, or wild garlic.
Ramsoms, like bluebells, tend to dominate the woodland floor wherever they get a foothold. They have large ribbed leaves and pretty star-shaped flowers. It’s still early in the season, so most of the leaves are very young and delicate, but there are enough already that I easily filled a carrier bag with leaves after twenty minutes.
If you’re tempted to try them, don’t wait too long. Last year I kept promising myself ‘I’ll go down and get some next week’ but by the time I got round to it, the wood was already starting to smell like rotten garlic. So this is the first year I’ve foraged ramsons.
You can use them like a herb – they have a fresh, garlicy taste – but they are also very nice as pesto. I’ve never made pesto before, but I am pleased to confirm that ramson pesto is stonkingly good. Here’s how I made the pesto:
- Pick lots of leaves and chop very finely
- Toast, and then grind up some nuts (I used pine nuts for one batch and cashew nuts for the other)
- Grind/mix together
- Add salt/pepper/lemon juice to taste
- Add cheese (I don’t think this is strictly necessary. As parmesan isn’t veggy I used cheddar, which seems to work)
- Mix in the best olive oil you have
And that’s it – yummy, and very fresh tasting, wild garlic pesto.
And now I’m off to cook some pasta to eat it with…