A proliferation of asparagus in the shops suggests that summer might be on
its way, but as far as I'm concerned we haven't yet said goodbye to cold weather eating. That said, a winter of robust roasts and stews leaves me craving something greener and cleaner.
Currently at their very best are leafy greens: pointy cabbages, curly kale,
spring greens, sprouting broccoli, rainbow chard and bok choy are all positively squeaking with crispness and bounce, and packed with vitamins and minerals.
Only last week I made the most satisfying salad simply by picking leaves from over-wintered veg in my garden: snippets of mustard greens with brilliant yellow flowers, peppery land cress, red-spotted chicory, emerald bok choy with its crunchy white stalks, and the last of the rocket. They were certainly coming
to an end – even the snails had given up – but tumbled together with toasted hazelnuts and a mustardy vinaigrette they made an excellent and colourful starter.
A treat at this time of year are wild garlic shoots popping up along the banks
of country lanes and in damp woodlands. The green spear-shaped leaves are easy to spot, and smell – their mild fragrance fills the air. They have a gentle flavour and can be eaten raw or cooked. Make sure you wash them very thoroughly before using. I like them best tossed through a salad, stirred into lightly cooked leafy greens, or added to an omelette.
Another garlicky treat are fresh juicy heads of green or 'wet' garlic. There is a world of difference between this and the garlic we use during the rest of the year. Unlike ordinary garlic, which is left in the ground to mature, green garlic
is harvested while young and tender. It has a thick juicy stem, rather than a raffia-like wisp, and moist pliable skin. The pearly white cloves have a skin so fine and silky that most don't need peeling. Some cloves are no more than a cluster of delicate embryos jostling for space with the plumper ones. The mild flavour leaves hardly a trace on the breath.
Green garlic is at its best in light dishes that allow its subtlety to shine through. Try it in my Glorious Green Stir-Fry, or in vegetable soups, egg dishes, or
even raw and thinly sliced in sandwiches. It has a very short season, from
now until May, so now is the time to pounce. You'll find it in farm shops and
© Christine McFadden, March 2022