They’ve been looking verdant and smelling great for weeks now but today was my first little ramsons harvest of the year. Just two leaves, plucked from a huge swathe of wild garlic, will be enough to set this evening’s meal alight. So that’s all I picked. I urge anyone thinking of foraging any plants, to abide by foraging rules and pick very sparingly. Only harvest what you know you will be able to use straight away.
Today I saw several ramson patches, on the edge of the lime avenue in park Frankendael, which were clearly recovering from careless picking. Leaves were torn, twisted and looked generally damaged. It’s saddening to see but more importantly it shows that many individuals don’t know how to harvest correctly and responsibly.
That’s the main reason I lead occasional herb walks in town. If you’d like to join at any time then please get in touch with me via email. I passionately believe that far more people should know the herbs around them and understand how to harvest if appropriate and use them safely. But unfortunately some foragers cause harm and I’d really like to help limit that.
There are many others herbs, currently looking ripe and perfect for use, here in Amsterdam. Nettle is just perfect at present, the new tips will be my next target for harvesting, destined for some home made pasta and a nourishing infusion. More on that next week.
On Thursday I visited my freinds in De Hortus Botanicus and helped them to harvest some Wild Garlic/Ramsons (Allium ursinum, NL:Daslook). It grows vigorously in several parts of the beautiful garden and periodically is removed from paths and areas where it out-competes other plants in the Hortus collection. I took home a large tub of whole Ramson plants; roots, bulbs, leaves and all. I made a delicious batch of Last Chance Ramson Pesto.
So why Last Chance, you may ask? In my local Frankendael Park, the Ramsons are currently in flower so it’s too late to harvest them. Ramsons are still edible when in flower but they taste rather unpleasant. The Ramsons in de Hortus are not yet in flower and they taste great! In another week or so they too will be in flower and it will be almost another year until they are fit for the plate. Another reason for my excitement is that I can only harvest Ramson leaves from the local parks. Harvesting the roots and bulbs would destroy the plants so of course is completely out of the question for wild plants in their natural habitat.
Last Chance Ramson Pesto – vary the proportions as you wish. Those stated made a good thick paste.
- Carefully wash the Ramsons (as you would spring onions), discard any odd squidgy bits from around the bulbs and trim off any really dirty roots.
- Roughly chop the clean Ramsons and place in blender. I had about 150g Ramsons.
- Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil to blender. I added about 200ml.
- Add finest quality pine nuts (beware cheap ones, many people have a bad reaction to them). I added 50g.
- Add a good grating of rock salt and pepper.
- Blend gradually until a thick paste is made. I needed to interrupt blending several times to scrape down the paste.
- When a homogeneous consistency has been made, add grated cheese and blend a little more to combine and break up the cheese (hard goats cheese for me, you may like Pecorino, Parmesan or similar).
- The result should be a paste which is thick enough to dollop into cooking mixes and thin enough to be stirred straight into hot pasta. Add more Olive Oil or more cheese to obtain a better consistency if required. I made about 650ml of pesto. It will keep me going for quite some time.
- Store in sterile jars and refrigerate or freeze in ice cube trays.
- Use as a straight pesto on pasta or as a super garlicy seasoning in other dishes. I added two teaspoons of my pesto to this sauce for salmon and prawns. It was delicious! I understand that Michael used it on fresh cheese ravioli and I used it the next day in a risotto. The list of uses is endless…