April is the time new plants start emerging in numbers and it's a great time for wild foragers. One of the plants they will seek out is wild garlic, known as Ramsons in English and Ail des ours ('Bears garlic') in French. It grows in damp woodland places, often beside streams. Where it grows it tends to grow abundantly so there is no danger of over harvesting if you are just picking for personal use. And bears are extinct in France so you are not depriving them now.
Ramsons growing on the banks of the Courtineau.
Usually you find it by noticing the strong garlic scent in the air. It really pongs, but in fact the taste is much milder, more like chives. You can chiffonade it and use it in omelettes or you can make a creamy sauce for steak, chicken or fish. The sauce freezes well, and is easier to make in a reasonably generous quantity.
Sweating the ramsons leaves with onion.
50 g butter
1 onion, sliced or chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
A generous handful of ramsons, washed, leaves only
100 - 200 ml cream
Other herbs eg chervil, tarragon, chopped (optional)
200 g mushrooms, chopped or sliced (optional)
Pinch of salt
- Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan.
- Sweat the onion and garlic.
- Add the mushrooms if using and cook until they release their liquid. You may want to tip some of the liquid out.
- Add the ramsons and herbs (if using) and sweat them until thoroughly wilted.
- Transfer to a blender and add the cream and salt.
- Blend until reasonably smooth.
- Warm gently to serve (this recipe makes at least 6 servings and if you've used mushrooms, twice that amount).
Sauce for the freezer.