From March to May, wild garlic grows in humid places, especially in Auvergne. A botanist and two restorers tell us about it. Follow the leader.
It is a plant that many chefs love to cook and whose taste is as poetic as its name: wild garlic. From March it blooms near rivers, especially in Auvergne. It takes its name in reference to a legend according to which after hibernation, the bears consumed it to purify themselves, announcing the arrival of spring. This April day, in Blesle, in the Haute-Loire, Charlie Braesch, botanist and nature guide, takes us to the discovery of wild garlic. In the company of Dominique Dubray, restaurateur, chef of La Bougnate, he takes us for a walk along the Voireuse, a tributary of the Allier river. Very quickly, we are alerted by an intense smell of garlic: the green carpet is there in front of our eyes. The treasure is within our reach!
Charlie Braesch explains: What is striking is that there is a great smell: you get it in the nostrils like all wild or cultivated plants, it will smell like garlic. This is one of the good ways to recognize wild garlic because it can be confused with highly toxic plants, such as arum. Another sign: the ribs. We will have ribs that will be quite parallel. The wild garlic will have a grain, that is the arrangement of the ribs, rather parallel while the grain of the ari will be comb-shaped, in the shape of a fishbone. Another possible confusion, with lily of the valley growing in very cool places at the edge of the forest, at the edge of the river, such as bear’s garlic. Wild garlic will have a shiny top. Its underside is opaque, while for lily of the valley it will be the opposite, i.e. the top side will be opaque. “.
But to grasp this precious plant that is, like all wild garlic, garlic, onion, wild leek, this will be a bulbous plant there are some rules to follow. The botanist points out: If there is a wild garlic population, we harvest here and there: we will respect this station and then allow the population to be present next year, the following year and for all to benefit from. It means not being selfish and thinking about others. It means being careful what you choose “.
This plant loves the edges of rivers, cool and humid environments. ” Every time I go to harvest, I take leaf after leaf. And there I will have a feeling, the feeling that is under my fingers. I will have a somewhat springy feeling. When I choose, I choose completely, with all my senses. The leaves are harvested when they are fully open. You can also pick the flowers when they are in bloom insists Charlie Braesch.
His fellow restaurateur, Dominique Dubray, particularly appreciates wild garlic. It was he who guided the botanist to this secret place: “ This corner is the chef’s secret. A few days ago there was snow here. I like to make an emulsion with it, for example to accompany scallops. So I also like to make a pesto that you can mix with pasta or serve it as an aperitif on a golden crouton like an olive tapenade or put it in a quiche or quiche. If we do brown it is just like a spinach leaf, a small knob of light butter, a drizzle of water and just a round trip “The leader remembers: We would like to choose everything, but we must reasonably take what we need ”. Wild garlic is his secret weapon, “The star product of the beginning of the season “.
“ It is a delicate product. At the same time we have this garlic flavor but which is subtle in the end and will enhance the flavors a bit. I also put it every now and then in a net, a chicken breast: it stinks likes to tell the restaurateur. Frédéric Pinto, chef at the restaurant Les Grandes Tables de la Comédie, in Clermont-Ferrand, is also particularly fond of wild garlic. He proposes a simple recipe, with asparagus: “ Let’s start by pre-cooking the asparagus in salted water. It will take 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Then we surround them with wild garlic. They are sautéed in hazelnut butter. We make it come back. Then, we can decorate them with wild garlic buttons, like pickles “.
Under the watchful eye of Frédéric Coursol, another renowned chef, the young chef emotionally underlines: ” When you taste wild garlic, you hear a lot of things. We will have this slightly earthy side of the asparagus and the garlic side of the wild garlic which will be predominant and at the end of the mouth. We will have all this depth given by the hazelnut butter that will remain and give this side a little reassuring “. He indicates:” It is a plant that I love. I love to cook all the plants. We take advantage of what nature offers us. There is a wide opening possible, with wild garlic you can do anything: you can do it with oil to get a pesto. You can just chop, mix with the oil and it can give a dish some pepper. Finally, wild garlic lends itself to almost everything, it supports both cooking and remaining raw “.
Frédéric Pinto explains how to preserve wild garlic: “ It can be stored for at least 3 days. Afterwards, if it is made according to the rules of the art like a plant, the stem is cut and left to soak slightly in water. The plant will live on and you can keep it. You can also put the wild garlic in a slightly damp cloth so that the cold does not grease the leaf too much. “. To your stoves!