Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wild Side

Despite living up to the moniker 'concrete jungle', most large cities have much to offer to the urban forager and foodie. In fact, urban planners, scientists and any other person with an opinion on the matter are increasingly eyeing cities as the larder of the future. The urban environment is already home to more species of plants and insects than the modern countryside: wild honeybees have become extinct in many rural areas, however, have been appearing in cities all over the world. The city where you live can also provide you with food. Today.


You just need to know where to look. Nettles are poking out their heads at this time of the year. I've always known that they were a prickly bunch, but only realised how much so when I accidentally walked through a patch bare-legged and in sandal foot... An experience I am not going forget anytime soon! Like most wild greens, nettles are highly nutritious (a great source of iron) and have potent tonic properties. I don't have a nice picture because the weather has been absolutely horrendous in London, but there is a very healthy patch of nettles in a neighbour's yard not a block away from where I live. And there is also that vast field of nettles I walked through last year, a 5 minute bus ride away. All this to say that nettles are abundant in most cities, usually free for the taking (though I would ask a neighbour's permission before helping myself to their weeds.)


However, the wild greens I want to talk about are ramps, also known as wild garlic. There are wild garlic growing in my garden in Montreal, and I know of patches all over that city, but the only place I've seen them in London was at Kew gardens. Luckily wild garlic can be bought at the market. Ramps have a pungent, yet much less persistent garlicky punch. They can be eaten raw as a toothsome garnish, or cooked like greens and served on their own. One way to enjoy it is in a spring tzatziki or raita: it'll pack a vicious wallop, but it'll be delicious.


Tzatziti is usually made with garlic and cucumber, whereas raita often omits the garlic: both sauces rely on a thick-set yoghurt to provide cooling refreshment to accompanying foods. Neither requires a recipe, but here is one to use as a guideline. I've omitted the cucumber, as the flavour would detract from the wild garlic.

Spring Tzatziki
Yields about 250mL/1 cup

250mL/1cup plain Greek-style yoghurt
5-7 leaves wild garlic
salt and pepper

Wash, and remove stalk ends from the garlic leaves. 
Chop into thin slivers crosswise.
Mix into the yoghurt, adjust seasoning.
Set aside for about 30 minutes to let flavours meld.
Serve as a dip for chips, a dressing for fish or lamb, or with nettle bajis.



Bon app'!



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