I think it says something about us at Lettice that the thing that signals spring is here, is not Daffodils, Crocuses and Tulips but the arrival of wild garlic (Ramsons, Ramps, Wood Leek, or whatever you want to call it). It’s always a special time when out walking you are hit with the pungent smell of garlic – you almost always smell it long before you see it!
Foraging is the buzz word of so many restaurants made famously cool by the likes of Rene Redzepi at Noma or Simon Rogan at L’Enclume. It’s easy to think that foraging is the thing for long country walks and while that is true, London has a few secret spots for those in the know. Don’t be afraid of foraging in urban areas – always be vigilant of where you find these delicious treats and make sure to respect how you pick them and ensure you wash them thoroughly before use.
Below are a couple of our favourite spots to find some of springs amazing bounty.
Streatham Common has a wonderful, wooded area that runs closely to an underground spring that bursts with wild garlic and with the warmer weather in Spring, you will find beautiful shoots coming up.
Dulwich Park has an amazing abundance of this pungent allium popping up all over the place. Wild Garlic gives three distinct products – the broad leaves, flowers and buds. The leaves are best used making pesto or preserving by making a vibrant green pesto (see our inspiration page for our recipe), the flowers are even more pungent than the leaves and add great vibrancy to salads and once the flowers have seeded you can salt the buds to make the most extraordinary capers.
A couple of other Spring ingredients that we love at Lettice are cherry blossom, which adds a great splash of colour to signal the start of Spring. This beautiful flower can be used to flavour vinegar that makes a delicious salad dressing or used to pickle vegetables as an accompaniment for roast duck. Just wash and salt the blossom and add to good quality white wine vinegar.
A more obscure tree that most people wouldn’t imagine produces something edible is Magnolia. This can be used in both sweet or savoury dishes. The flowers when more closed and bud like should be pickled and used as an alternative to ginger with your sushi. Or sweet make a simple syrup using equal weights of washed Magnolia flowers, sugar and water – bring to the boil and let them infuse, reducing the liquid until syrupy. This syrup makes a great addition to cocktails, can be used as the base for a floral mocktail or our personal favourite to pour over vanilla ice cream for a sweet spring time treat!