Cooking with Wild Garlic: Foraging for the Kitchen

| 19th April 2013

Wild garlic is about to burst into flower - but it's one of those 'giving' plants where every part is edible

If there's one plant you don't need to be a botanist to safely identify it's wild garlic. Just follow your nose ... and head straight back to your kitchen says Susan Clark
When the cooking smells coming from your oven are good enough to fetch your neighbour to the front door you know you are on to a winner!

Scone - as in sc-OWN? Or scone as in sc-ON? Being a Devon Maid I have always used the former but ... I was Devon-raised by Yorkshire folk and so cannot really be trusted to be using the correct regional pronunciation or even recipe!

Last night, I dreamt about that Yorkshire man who raised me; a tall, dark and striking bearded fellow who would find himself booked solidly each New Year's Eve to go First Footing with a lump of (lucky) coal up and down the length of the village. I think this was because he was a trans-located Northerner and thus, in these parts, way back then, still very much a novelty neighbour.

"I find you quite difficult," he said.

I woke and wondered if that might be because instead of doing the obvious thing with the current astonishing abundance of wild garlic around my home - which is to make a wild garlic pesto, like everyone else - I have been awaiting true inspiration to make something I actually would really really like to eat. 

Imagine my joy (and relief) then when earlier in this same week, I had stumbled across a recipe on twitter for cheese and wild garlic scones which sounded delicious but which, no sooner had I clicked on the link to read the recipe in full, I promptly lost when my ever-tenuous Blackberry web connection crashed. 

Never mind. I am not a Devon Maid for nowt (as we say in these parts) and as such I was probably making scones long before anyone tried to teach me domestic 'science' as it was once known and taught in our schools.

So I have dug out my trusted Devon 'proper job' recipe for West Country Scones (sc-owns) and to include this new wild garlic twist, I simply finely ribbon-chopped the tenderest of wild garlic younger leaves and mixed them with grated cheese before adding the milk to make the scone dough.

When the smell from your oven is good enough to fetch your neighbour to the front door on the pretext of asking if you are attending the anti-slurry meeting at the weekend, but actually because the smell is too good to resist, you know you are on to a winner.

For me, cooking with foraged foods is a fairly even split between complete triumph and total disaster. I am happy to report the Cheese & Wild Garlic scones fall into the triumphant category.

When the cooking smells coming from your oven are good enough to fetch your neighbour to the front door you know you are on to a winner!

Needless to say, I am not serving these delicious scones with Devon-made clotted cream. Or jam. I am serving them warmed up and with a smattering of marmite under a layer of melted cheese for those in need of comfort and with a quinelle of my mother-in-law's allotment beetroot chutney for those inspired by the current series of  BBC1's Masterchef, which just gets better and better (although why are there no vegetarian cooks?)

I've been thinking about my dad ever since that unsettling dream and so, just to reassure him (and my husband) that I am not always awkward just for the sake of it, I have also knocked up a batch of a divine Wild Garlic & Walnut pesto, using a recipe and a few handy tips sent to me when the wild garlic tips first starting pushing through by my friend Jane (Thank you Jane)

She told me the original version was quite runny - which I did not fancy - and so I doubled the volume of wild garlic and walnuts and halved the amount of oil. And the end result, though I say it myself, is sensational! See dad, I have learnt to "fit in."  Sometimes.

And before we leave Spring altogether, I have my eye on making a creamy Gorse Flower ice cream ... which, weather permitting, should be coming up next ...

West Country Cheese Scones with a Wild Garlic Twist


(makes around 12-20 scones, depending on how thick you cut the dough)

225g self raising flour

50 butter; soft enough to crumble into the flour

200g cheddar cheese (or you can do a mix of cheddar and parmesan)

A dozen freshly-foraged wild garlic leaves, finely chopped (discard the stalks before you chop)

pinch of salt

two pinches of black pepper

150ml of milk 

1 tbsp plain yoghurt (this is the secret Devon ingredient)

extra milk to brush the tops of the scones for a golden glaze


Pre-heat your oven to a hot 220C/425F/Gas mark 7

Sift your flour into the mixing bowl. It's worth taking the time to do this because it aerates the flour and will make for a lighter scone. Rub in the butter, add the salt and pepper and tip in the grated cheese and chopped wild garlic leaves.

Use a metal spoon or pallet knife to stir in the milk and yoghurt to make a sticky mix. Flour your hands and a work surface and lightly knead the mix to make a smooth-to-the-touch dough.

Roll to the thickness you prefer your usual scones and use a fluted cutter to cut the rounds for baking. 

Brush the top of each scone with the extra milk to make a glaze. Pop into the oven on a lightly greased tray for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness.

Cool on a wire rack and eat quickly which won't be a problem because they are delicious!

Wild Garlic & Walnut Pesto

For my dad!


200g wild garlic leaves, ditch the stalks

100g shelled walnuts

100ml olive oil

100g parmesan or other hard cheese

salt and pepper to taste 


Blend the wild garlic and walnut in batches in a food processor. Blend again with the oil and again, do this in stages so you can monitor the liquidity of the mix.

Remove into a mixing bowl and add your grated hard cheese.

Stir, season, taste and decant into a good looking kilner jar ready to wow your family and friends with not just homemade but homemade POSH pesto!

Keep in the fridge.

I am having mine with spaghetti on an evening when I know I won't be breathing over anyone the following day!

Susan Clark is managing editor of Resurgence & Ecologist.



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