It is that time of year when our woods fill with bluebells and alongside their delicate scent there is a more pungent counterpoint, the smell of wild garlic.
The two plants grow in the same woods and at exactly the same time of year. They are the true harbingers of renewal, you are not going to get them anytime else, except now in early Spring.
These leaves of garlic are the British kitchens earliest break with winter. It cannot be bought out of season having been flown halfway the round the world, it grows here and now and must be loved and appreciated for its timeliness and its short season.
Its arrival signifies that winter is finished and the seemingly endless tyranny of cabbage and other brassicas is over, soon will come asparagus, peas, proper spring onions, calcots, broad beans and nettles.
I can now look forward to an almost endless variety of soups, salads, pasta dishes, risotti and vegetable main courses, all fresh, healthy and renewed each year.
Every year I make a Wild Garlic soup based loosely on something my mother used to make for my garlic loving father. The garlic always came from the Strid woods at Bolton Abbey, filched from this fabulous Cavendish family estate and I remember it being pungent beyond belief.
I temper the strength of the garlic by reducing the amount used and giving it a preliminary boil for a few seconds before adding to the soup.
The basis of the dish is a simple leek and potato soup, representing the end of winter as leeks grow woody and unpleasant by the middle of spring, but are still around in good condition now to greet the garlic.
The parboiled garlic is dropped into the cooked soup, simmered for a minute or so then the ensemble is whizzed to a puree.
It is a lovely pale green colour, worthy of Farrow and Ball and exudes freshness and warmth.
The ‘wellness’ faithful attribute almost miraculous qualities to it. I will go as far as to say it definitely has vitamin C and is certainly good for you.
Look out for Wild Garlic Soup and other new dishes in the SHOP after the Easter break…