Wild garlic, a favorite spice in the kitchen of great chefs

11:05, April 29, 2022

He scares away vampires, but not cooks. From aioli to candied black garlic, we thought we knew everything about garlic. But in just three years, one of its cousins, wild garlic, has come along to prove to us that it’s not just showing off in the pods. This wild plant with long green “tipped” leaves owes its mysterious name to the mountain bears, who make it their first meal when they emerge from their cave after hibernation. Like them, other mammals use it to cleanse themselves and fill up with vitamins before resuming their life in the forest: in the Netherlands it is called “badger garlic”.

For Homo sapiens, which we are, wild garlic rather heralds the arrival of spring: together with asparagus, it comes out of the ground at the first sign of a beautiful season, around mid-March. ” When I was a kid and we started smelling garlic outside, it was synonymous with school holidays coming up! recalls Arnaud Bachelin, wild plant enthusiast, author of the book Wild garlic – ten ways to prepare it (Editions de l’Epur). This plant is much less acidic than a clove of garlic: it tastes similar, but with the texture of basil, it is sweeter. »

Not to be confused with thrush

Then he decorates the undergrowth with his garlic aroma, and the first pickers, with baskets in their hands, rush to the hidden corners, as in autumn with mushrooms. ” I have my own places hidden in the forest of Bellem, in Perche, I only take my friends and cooks there, says Monique Duvo, chef and cookbook author. Garlic is found in damp places, often in the shade. »

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Be careful not to confuse its leaves with lily of the valley or colchicum leaves, which are poisonous. The trick to recognize it: just crush the leaves between your fingers, they immediately exude the characteristic smell of garlic.

Leaders know how to recognize them. Especially mountain cooks, “gatherers” in their free time: Savoyard Marc Veira, a pioneer of herbal cooking, as well as his neighbors Jean Sulpice in Talloires and Emmanuel Renaud in Megeve, as well as Mauro Colagreco in Menton (French Alps). .-Maritimes) or Florent Ciccoli at the Café du Coin (Paris, 11th). Not to mention the master Michel Bra in Laguiole (Averon), whose legendary gargoyle herb salad already contained it thirty years ago.

magic seasoning

A younger generation has recently discovered wild garlic thanks to a resurgence in plant-based cooking and harvesting. “ Chefs have been using wild plants in their kitchens for nearly a decade. explains Pierre-Edouard Robin, a collector in Orne. Wild garlic is fashionable, like starflower or borage flowers before it, with an oyster flavor. My activity as a collector began with wild garlic: it was the first plant that I collected. I put some in my suitcase and crossed Paris to offer it to the chefs and I sold everything! »

We tend to underutilize these plants, which can nevertheless be used to make very exotic dishes.

On breadsticks with soft-boiled eggs, in fresh cheese as an aperitif, in fragrant butter… Wild garlic is mainly used as a seasoning that can be used to enhance countless dishes, raw or cooked. The pesto recipe is the most common. ” I wash and dry the leaves well, then grind them in a food processor with olive oil, almonds or pine nuts and salt, then store them in jars. “describes in detail Monique Duveau, who uses it”almost everywhere»: for accompanying lambs, stuffing chickens or dressing with egg mayonnaise (see recipe below).

At his Chocho restaurant in Paris (10th), Thomas Chisholm uses pistachios in his wild garlic pesto and serves it with green asparagus, marinated razor clams and homemade ricotta. “I love garlic because I’m from the south, and especially wild garlic for its grassy and fresh side.says last season’s Top Chef candidate.I like to roast a few leaves directly on a Japanese grill for ten seconds on each side. It turns out small crispy crusts with a garlic-fried taste, which I serve with fish.»

The best associations respect the seasons. Allium ursinum loves the first asparagus, morels or the last citrus fruits: “In a spicy sauce, it is ideal with oily fish such as trout or arctic char; combined with the freshest kumquats and olive oil goes very well with lamb,says Julien Dumas, head chef of a recently starred restaurant at the Saint James Hotel in Paris (16th).You can also make green curry with vegetables, komba, Thai basil and coriander.At Bellefeuille, he serves it in fragrant white butter with trout and eggs.

Pickles and chocolate mousse

The most knowledgeable cooks are also interested in the other parts of the plant: its buds and its seeds. “We can get out of the pestocontinues Arnaud Bachelin.In my book there is a recipe for chocolate mousse, pickles, strawberry salad with wild garlic… The idea is to have fun twisting recipes.Thomas Chisholm is especially fond of seeds harvested at the end of the season (early May), when they are tender: he turns them into pickles, like capers. “Seed, flower and bud are very interesting to cook,confirms the assembler Pierre-Edouard Robin.In pickles as an aperitif, ideal with meats.»

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However, wild garlic has had a bad reputation for a long time. Wild plants consumed during wars were synonymous with poverty and asceticism. “They are also associated with sixty-eight tough broads. We tend to underutilize these plants, which can nevertheless be used to make very exotic dishes.For example: cow parsnip and its tangerine taste or avens roots with clove accents…

The passion for pickers that conquers chefs today: “I am delighted when I can work with chefs who are really interested in it, and not just for decorating a plate, continues Pierre-Edouard Robin. I can see in their shining eyes that they are discovering a new universe that promises them thousands of new recipes!»

Recipe: my eggs in wild garlic mayonnaise

Monique Duvo*​

Ingredients (for 8 people)​: 9 good chicken eggs, 1 very thick mayonnaise, 1 salad of your choice, 2 tablespoons of wild garlic pesto.

For the pesto sauce: 1 bunch of wild garlic, 25 ml of extra virgin olive oil, 60 g of pine nuts or blanched almonds, 1 teaspoon of crushed ice (for greens).

  • For the pesto sauce: wash the leaves and dry them. Protect them. Pour olive oil into a blender and place leaves, pine nuts (or almonds) and ice cream. Blend until you get a puree. Keep it cool.
  • Pour water into a saucepan and put eggs in it. Heat to a boil, cook for 5 minutes to keep them soft.
  • Cool 8 eggs, leave one in hot water to harden. Scale them up.
  • On a serving dish, place a layer of lettuce, a few wild garlic leaves and 8 halved eggs.​
  • In a bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the pesto sauce. Place pesto mayonnaise on each egg half. Chop up the remaining hard-boiled egg. Sprinkle it over the eggs and garnish with a small leaf of wild garlic.

* All her recipes on Instagram:​@moniqueduveau

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