Foraged vegetables are always more fun to cook. So our resident forager, Tama Matsuoka Wong, is introducing us to the seasonal wild plants we should be looking for, and the recipes that will make our kitchens feel a little more wild.
Today: Spring garlic's summery, delicate offspring is as lovely to stumble upon as it is to use in virtually any dish.
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When the summer days are long, as they are now, we spend evenings on the porch barbecuing with friends and family who drop by for some summer greens and pasta salads, Asian summer rolls, and anything on the grill.
Our guests often ramble around on the paths in our meadow or the edges of our backyard, and I love to point out the burgundy-tinted globes dotting the fields. They are wild garlic aerial bulblets, which we clip, break open, and add to all our casual summer dishes.
What I find fascinating about foraging is that it teaches me to better observe and use wild plants at their different stages through the year. I enjoy wild garlic shoots in the spring, but they soon turn bitter, sharp, and wiry. In summer, the garlic plant refocuses on making underground bulbs and, sometimes, above-ground bulblets.
By spring’s end, wild garlic shoots up stalks two feet or higher that form papery white wrappers known as spathes, inside which forms a burgundy-colored globe of mini bulblets. These are known as “aerial” bulblets, and in my opinion, they taste even better than their underground counterparts.
Bulblets are commonly found in sunny fields, between farm and vegetable garden rows, and in “poorly maintained” lawn areas. They're often packed together tightly -- sometimes, you'll find as many as 300 little bulblets on a single globe. You can tell when they are ready because the spathe will split open. The globes must be ripe enough to split apart into the hundred or so bulblets, each one with a burgundy tinge at one end and a papery white tip at the other.
Some of the bulblets will form little green shoots and an occasional flower at the tip, which look like static electricity hair standing straight up on end. These shoots are fine to eat.
Garlic bulblets are crunchy, juicy, and sweetly garlicky. They're wonderful sprinkled raw on top of salads and hamburgers, tossed on the grill, or slipped into sandwiches instead of onion slices. You can also cook them into an oniony jam, or bake them into a lovely biscuit, like these.
Note: When foraging, always choose high-quality landscapes (not next to the highway or on post-industrial or sprayed sites), and make sure to obtain permission if it is not your own yard. If possible, go out with an experienced forager. We assume no responsibility for any adverse effects from misidentification or incorrect use of featured wild plants. For more information and identification advice please consult us at meadowsandmore.com.