A quick guide to some common edible plants.
Wild Onions and Garlic (mid March onwards)
Though the title is ‘Wild Onions and Garlic’ the truth is that both the plants I am about to talk about have been called both names because they are both somewhere inbetween, or a little like both. Neither is a substitute for garlic or onion though, but both are still lovely to eat. So to avoid confusion I am simply going to use their old English or ‘country’ names of ‘Ramsons’ and ‘Jack By The Hedge’. Both emerge in early spring, are early flowerers, and then fade off in late summer.
Ramsons (allium ursimum)
Sometimes referred to as wild garlic but actually the young plant bulbs and stems are more like spring onions. This is a very pungent plant and should be used sparingly in salads. If you eat a full flower as it is opening you will taste little else or a few days after, but individual tiny white petals in a salad are both tasty and visually interesting.
When found in sandy soil the bulbs are easy to dig up and are also edible, though they take on an unusual taste when cooked. The spear shaped leaves can be finely chopped for salads or stir-fried (with other ingredients).
Found alongside paths, lanes and ditches and in huge colonies in mature woodlands where their scent will fill the air on a warm day.
Jack By The Hedge (alliaria petiolata)
Also known as ‘Hedge Garlic’. Its older name is perfect because it loves to grow with something behind it, a hedge, a wall, a fence or some other vegetation. It is common, as its name suggests, in hedgerows.
This plant is much less pungent than Ramsons and a single leaf in a cheese sandwich is my favourite way to eat it. It can of course be chopped and added to salad.
Difficult to identify when young because it resembles other ground hugging plants but as it grows skywards in April its height and structure become good recognition features.