The woodland floor in Frankendael Park is carpeted with flowering snowdrops and the emerging leaves of Ramsons (wild garlic, Allium ursinum). I’m sure snowdrops have their uses but when you find them, Ramsons are an urban herb forager’s dream. All parts of the plant are edible and very useful, though the leaves and flowers are all you should use. The bulbs should be left alone and only pick a leaf or two from any plant. They taste truly delicious – if you like the taste of garlic! They taste best, by far, before the pretty white flowers open and can be eaten from early spring, when the first leaves emerge from the soil.
Ramsons have similar properties to Garlic but are milder in all respects. They are also more tolerable to those you have difficulty digesting other members of the onions family.
- Ramsons can be eaten raw or cooked and act as a gentle spring tonic.
- They act as a gentle blood cleanser, stimulating the circulatory system and so benefiting the heart, memory, eye sight and skin.
- They can be very helpful to those suffering from bowel problems, such as Crohn’s disease, IBS, colic, ulcerative colitis, flatulence, gas and bloating. They have a mild cleansing and calming effect and are said to balance gut flora.
- They have mild antibacterial and antifungal properties, making them useful as a poultice for boils and minor cuts.
Until yesterday I had only eaten Ramsons as a spicy addition to salads and cheese sandwiches. Michael & Elodie at de Hortus told me about Ramson pesto last week so, after a quick afternoon forage, Ramson pesto and home made pasta was on the menu at my home last night.
The recipes I found for Ramson pesto called for a heap of leaves; fine if you live in the country and have access to huge swathes of Ramsons but I don’t. The Ramsons in city parks need to be shared by many and have more pressures to endure throughout the year. So today I picked twelve leaves and made enough pesto for two people – it was delicious and as you an see, the intense colour is striking.
Urban Ramson Pesto
6 Ramson leaves per person
10 Pine nuts per person (optional)
Pecorino or firm goats cheese (optional)
- Gently but thoroughly wash the Ramson leaves. Pat them dry.
- Chop as finely as possible, using a sharp knife.
- Place chopped leaves in a small bowl and add enough olive oil to loosen them up and create a useful pesto type consistency.
- Add finely chopped pine nuts and grated cheese if you like.
- Use in salad dressings, as a pasta sauce and generally in cooking in place of garlic.