By Sarah Watson, forager
Wild garlic flower buds
Take advantage of the punchy flavour and health benefits of wild garlic (Allium ursinum) flower buds before they flower, by pickling the buds to preserve them.
Around now in April, the long, pointed leaves become topped with a haze of starry, six-petalled white flowers. The blossoms emerge from their pale green, pointed bud parcels (as pictured above), arranged in clusters of 10 to 20 on a three-sided stem which is triangular in cross-section.
Wild garlic flowers
Wild garlic flowers are an early nectar source for butterflies and bees, so take only as much as you need, and take care not to take too many buds or flowers from one spot. Mind your step too as some plants, such as native bluebells, are sensitive to trampling.
Sweet Pickled Wild Garlic Buds recipe
Makes one jar
This works for both wild garlic buds, and the seed pods later in the year. Enjoy your pickles as a piquant, garlicky garnish, in salads, on canapes, pizzas, with cheese and crackers, etc.
- A good handful of fresh wild garlic flower buds with stems, carefully washed – or seed pods which you can snip off the main stem and pickle as individual pods (like caviar!) or leave as a whole umbel (umbrella shape) with a short length of stalk attached.
- 200ml (approx.) white wine vinegar (or you could use cider vinegar or pickling vinegar)
- Up to 2 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
- Half tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp pickling spices (you could choose from: fennel, peppercorns, mustard seeds, allspice, chilli, ginger, coriander seeds, cloves, juniper, lemon zest or go wild with hogweed seeds or spruce, fir or larch tips).
- A dried bay leaf or two, and/or other fresh or dried herbs
- First sterilise a jar and a vinegar-proof lid to fit your wild garlic buds.
- Pack the buds tightly into your jar, leaving about 10cm of stem attached and forming a circle with about 4 stems at a time – fill the jar almost to the top as the contents will shrink when the hot liquid is added.
- Heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, spices and bay gently in a pan (enamel is best, avoid aluminium with acidic liquids) until the sugar dissolves.
- Then bring to a gently bubbling simmer and remove from the heat.
- Pour the hot, spiced pickling vinegar over the buds to cover them.
- Leave for a minute or two to allow the vinegar to start to penetrate the buds and for the liquid level to settle, then slowly raise and lower a clean chopstick around the inside of the jar to remove air bubbles. Tamp the middle down a bit, and then gently tap the jars against your worktop a few times to remove any remaining bubbles.
- Top up with vinegar to about a centimetre from the top of the jar, then seal the jar while still hot.
- Once cooled, keep in the fridge and leave to mature for 2 weeks to a month.
- As with all home-made preserves, check for spoilage before eating, e.g. any off-smells, colour changes or unusual softness or sliminess – if there’s any doubt, don’t eat it.
Make sure you carefully identify any foraged plants you’re planning to eat to 100% certainty with a good field guide, or three. If in doubt, leave it out. If you’re still not sure exactly what to look for, come on a foraging course with an expert.
Discover more about identifying and cooking with wild edible plants on a Wild Feast foraging & cookery course. Get wild food and drink tips and updates on course dates on Facebook, or sign up for my e-newsletter (option to unsubscribe at any time).
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