Ramson, Wild Garlic, Daslook, Bear Leek, Ail des Ours, Bärlauch
So many names for this great plant: Allium ursinum is one of the highlights of spring. Powerful, pure and tasty. Some say you should only eat the leaves before the plant starts to bloom. But then you can’t combine the leaves and the tasty white flowers in your dish, so we suggest ignoring that idea. The flowers are (if you’re lucky) just a touch sweet because of the nectar. It can be harvested from the wild, but some garden centers also sell ramson. The taste is a combination of onion and garlic, but much greener, longer lasting and with a touch of bitterness at the end. You can turn the leaves into a strong pesto, but better use it as herb with for instance potatoes or gnocchi. See our recipe for Farfalle with Ramson (or Wild Garlic) and Parmesan Cheese.
Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler included two recipes in their classic book Mushrooms (published by Kyle Books and still available via for instance Amazon and other channels). One is a combination of Cod, Trompette des Morts (Black Trumpet) and Ramson. The other one is an intriguing combination of white Asparagus, Morels and Ramson.
We suggest a full-bodied white wine with a fine acidity. For instance Herdade São Miguel, Colheita Seleccionada. The wine comes with distinctive minerals, along with excellent harmony and a long and well-balanced finish. It works well with the slight bitterness and sweetness of the asparagus; the gently onion and garlic taste of the ramson and the pancake-like taste of the morels.
Farfalle with Ramson (or Wild Garlic) and Parmesan Cheese
Ramson is a protected plant, so we don’t suggest you run out of the door and start picking it. We bought our plant in a garden centre a few years ago and we love using the leaves and the flowers. Some sources mention that you should only eat the leaves before the plant starts flowering. But then you can’t combine the leaves and the tasty flowers in your dish, so we suggest ignoring that idea. The flowers may have (if you’re lucky) a touch of sweetness because of the honey in the flower. Simply taste the leaves and the flowers well before using and adjust quantities. Ramson is much-loved in Germany, Austria (Bärlauch) and other parts of Europe. Its taste is close to chives. It’s a bit like a combination of onion and garlic, but much greener, longer lasting and with a touch of bitterness at the end. Works very well as a pesto, but equally nice with potatoes or gnocchi. Once we had soup of ramson, but that was not the best idea ever.
The taste of the pesto is somewhat advanced, meaning you may want to tweak it if you feel it’s too strong (hence the almonds and the pine nuts).
We would suggest a Soave to go with the dish. The Garganega grape will combine very well with the specific taste of the ramson, given the wine is fresh with a subtle bitterness
Here is what you need:
20 or so leaves of Ramson
(toasted Pine Nuts or Almonds)
Cut the leaves in smaller bits and blitz the leaves with grated Parmesan cheese. If you want to soften the taste, now is the moment to add some toasted almonds or pine nuts. Slowly add the olive oil until blended and smooth. Maybe you want to add a bit of lemon juice. Cook the farfalle and serve with the pesto and some grated Parmesan cheese. You can store the pesto for a week or so in the refrigerator if you add some extra olive oil to the jar, covering the pesto.