Wild About - Wild Allium

It's been raining a lot here lately.  And I've bitten my tongue, although it was tempting to complain.  In this dry climate, rain is a blessing - my desires to get outside and see the sun will be fulfilled soon enough.

I can't even begin to tell you how happy I was to finally get out and forage today, however.  I got my comfy saddle put on the other day, and my bike tuned up and in the sweet spot (by myself, thanks to the patient lessons of my friend Jameson Velosmith), but hadn't been able to ride, between my schedule and Mamma N's.

It was pretty chilly when I headed out, in the upper 40's, and I knew I would get wet regardless.  But it felt so marvelous just to push my pedals around and feel the air splashing my face.  Cycling, my happiness, my drug. I had expected to find asparagus, to poke around in hopes of finding morels, and do a bit of guerrilla gardening.  But I got a big fat foraging present instead.

I was in the ditches, on a section of trail that I thought too muddy to see any foot traffic.  I had just finished putting a transplant into the ground, and was wiping mud off my hori hori when I was startled by a man whipping by me on foot at lightening speed (have you seen those videos of Sasquatch? yeah, like that, determined and casual and lightening fast).  I dropped my tool, and tried to look like an innocent mud-covered sopping-wet cyclist ~sheepish toothy grin, so innocent~.  But then, click click click, my mind recognized that he had a bundle of green in his hand - plants - food - something purple on the bottom - a forager!  But the time all the jigsaw pieces fell into place, he had blown far past me.

I imagine he was quite surprised to see a dirty helmet-clad woman running after him, excuse me, excuse me sir!  But he was quite happy to answer my questions.  The plant in his hand was wild allium, and he told me exactly where to find it.  Can't you just imagine me nodding and jumping up and down with excitement?  Plant nerd.  When I told him that he'd made my day, he turned his head to the side quizzically.

I wasted no time in hopping onto Ignacio (yes, that would be my new bike, aka Nacho) and finding the patch of wild garlic.  My jaw nearly dropped.  There was a huge patch of it by the creek, as big as my dining room.  The air was heavy with the scent of garlic.  I've ridden past there a million times, but never noticed. Argh!  And the allium itself had rather nondescript grassy-looking leaves.  I dropped to my knees, and started pulling up bunches from the soft wet soil.  Small purple bulbs, like a savory ocean, it was hard not to take more than I needed.

I hardly wasted a second in discovering the flavor of wild garlic.  I bit into it raw.  I had expected garlic fire.  But instead, what I tasted was intense, super-concentrated garlic flavor, but absolutely no heat.  In fact, the wild garlic was rather sweet.

Next, I popped some into the oven to roasted, kissed with a touch of lard and salt and pepper.  Oh wow, even more concentrated and sweet, like garlic candy tidbits.

While that was cooking, a chopped up both the (still) tender greens and bulbs, and sauteed them with some dock.  Oh man, the greens were infused with the perfect rich garlic-y flavor, bold but not overpowering.

For dinner, I threw a few bulbs into my mashed potatoes, and was again blown away by the perfectly palatable flavor of garlic.  I can tell you right now that it will be a staple in my kitchen, especially since the patch of it is only 3 miles from home.  I can't wait to make wild allium pancakes, to roast meat with it, to grill with wild allium.  Oh man, the possibilities seem limitless.

Happily sharing with Pennywise Platter Thursday.

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