Ramson (buckram / ramps / wild garlic) leaves are a foraging staple for us – great for flavouring, great in salads, plentiful and renewable. If you’re careful, you can pick the leaves without damaging the plant, so it’ll grow back next year. This week, though, we’ve been experimenting with digging up whole plants. Of course, we can only take a few plants here and there, because once you take the bulb and roots from the ground, the plant won’t grow back. But we’ve been lucky enough to find a few very large patches, though, so taking just a fraction of the plants on offer this week has left us with a respectable haul. But what to do with them?
The ramson plant is made of three main edible parts, which all have different consistencies and require different methods of preparation – so the first job, pictured above, was to separate the sections. At the top of the plant is the leaf, which is a bit like a garlicky spinach leaf. We cut these off. Then below that, there’s a whitish stem. These can be chopped and used much like spring onions. We cut these off too. Then we were left with the bulb (having already removed the clump of hairy roots from the bottom). This bulb is a lot like cultivated garlic. We chopped these into rough chunks, ready for preservation. Another part of the plant – the bud which will become the flower – is also very good to eat, and The Foragers have pickled these in the past. These usually start to come out a bit later in the year, but we did find some early buds in this batch. You can see them on the top right corner of the chopping board. So the plants were clean and prepared. Now to preserve.
Head Chef Tommy put the chunks of bulb into a simple pickling solution (roughly the same recipe he used to preserve chicken of the woods fungus – here). The stems can be used separately, but in this case he added them to the jar as well.
That just leaves the leaves:
We’re using these all the time, but also looking for ways to preserve them. Fortunately, this crop of ramsons coincided with a surplus of watercress at the Verulam Arms, so Chef Ben was able to use some of the ramson leaves to make a watercress, ramson, walnut and foraged hogweed seed pesto, which will last much longer than the fresh leaves.
Ramsons: a truly versatile plant. We’ve done a lot with it already, but I’m sure we’ll be finding more uses for it as spring goes on. George is already talking about using the leaves like vine leaves to make dolmades. Watch this space!