Ramson flowers

Sometimes it’s good to break off from the heritage copywriting and just go for a wander in the woods of Yorkshire. After all, this is the best time of the year for it. The leaves have fully unfurled now, and the ground cover is growing fast. First out of the blocks in many damp, shaded places is the wild garlic – ramsons, to be correct – whose leaves, spear-like and unmistakeable, grow in great profusion here and there. Their appearance is, for me, the start of foraging time. I take great handfuls of the leaves and use them in every way possible. My wife made ramson and walnut pesto the other year but I tend to chop them into salads or use them in pasta sauces where they make a milder yet earthier alternative to the shop-bought garlic bulbs. They are starting to flower right now, and their familiar white star-like flowers will soon make quite a display, while the woods begin to smell of that wonderful garlic odour.

Wood with ramsons

Also putting in an appearance is Jack-by-the-Hedge, the ‘garlic mustard’ of past centuries when local folk would pick the leaves of this handsome plant and add a little piquancy to their cooking. As its name suggests, it grows by waysides and hedge verges. The sides of paths through woods are perfect for finding it. For me, it finds its way into salads, sandwiches, the works. Like ramsons, it’s a flavour of spring, as much a sign of the arrival of warmer days as the unfurling of hawthorn buds or the cry of curlews.

Jack by the Hedge

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