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Wild Garlic and Fennel Soup

A perfect gift for me would be a guided walk with a botanist/forager extraordinaire. I know there are so many plants all around me worthy of my plate (80% of plants are comestible; not all 80% are delectable, though), but I just don't know how to identify them.

However, I do know alliums when I see--and smell--them; so during a drive with S and my mil, when I spied beautiful globes of clustered flowers bobbing amidst the tall grasses, I knew I had to go back with a trowel for a little wildcrafting.

In the prairie behind my mother-in-law's house, I also stumbled upon some fennel. Perfect for mixing with that wild garlic. Along with some narrowleaf plantain and wild violet* leaves, we had the makings of what I call my Poor Girl Soups.  Wild Garlic and Fennel Soup probably sounds more appetizing to most, I'm sure. 

If you'd like to make something similar, first go a-gathering:


Cut at least 6 nicely-furnished sprigs of fennel, more if you enjoy fennel's distinctive flavor; a great big bunch of plantain and violet leaves--more on these proportions later. Dig up some wild garlic. Next to the main bulb, you may see tiny balls that make it look like someone packed the roots with polystyrene. You can take some of them, leaving a few to produce more plants. Keep the stems and flowers.

Clean your garlic bulbs. Make sure you keep the stalks, tying them in a bundle with butcher's twine. Those flowers make a lovely bouquet, but don't stick them in a vase just yet. Your soup will thank you.


Wash and cut your greens. If you have some dock or sorrel, gather a small--toddler-sized--handful of that to throw in. Otherwise, you can squeeze in the juice of half a lemon for a touch of acidity.

into the pot

Wild Garlic and Fennel soup
Serves 4 and a toddler

-  30 bulbs (plus the small ones) - use less cultivated garlic if you can't get wild as it is more pungent. 

- about 8 umbels (it doesn't matter if some are a bit wilted; cook with those and save the pretty ones for decoration. They are tasty, with a floral, garlicky bite)

- Garlic stalks, tied in a bundle

6 sprigs wild fennel - cultivated fennel bulbs would obviously work as well)

100 grams plantain and violet leaves (a colander full, about 5 cups) - could substitute any green leafy vegetable, even dandelion greens, radish leaves, or that wilted lettuce you were going to throw out.

- 1 handful of dock/sorrel OR the juice of half a lemon

- 1 handful of chopped parsley leaves (optional) -
will give soup a brighter green color than shown here.

- Salt

- Pepper

- Olive oil

- Cream (optional)

1. Saute bulbs in 1 T olive oil. When they start to become translucent, add 4-5 umbels; reserve some to decorate each bowl.

2. After flowers have wilted, add all the greens, including the bundle of stalks. Cover and let the steam wilt the greens. Add just enough water to cover ingredients. What? No stock?  Nope, I made the soup without it, wanting to taste only what the ingredients would give me on their own. In my opinion, the result was quite tasty. Score. Even better for a poor girl.

3. Bring to a boil, then simmer about thirty minutes. Remove bundle of stalks and a little bit of the cooking liquid. Reserve liquid. Better to add it back in than end up with a too-thin soup.

4. Throw in the parsley, if using, and mix soup. You can use an immersion blender, but be warned, plantain is pretty fibrous and you'll get better results with a stationary blender. If you want soup with an even smoother texture, pass it through a food mill or fine-mesh strainer.

5. Salt and pepper to taste. Reheat if necessary.

6. Serve and decorate with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh cream, and flowers.

7. Give to your taster to make sure everything is up to snuff.

taste tester

I think she approves. :D

* With all plants, know what you are gathering! If you can't make a positive ID, don't eat it, and don't consider me an expert or use my photos as your only guide. Don't confuse violets with lily-of-the-valley, a plant that likes similar growing conditions to violets and has a similar leaf. The best way to identify violets is wait until the plant is in flower. 


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 23rd, 2012 02:18 pm (UTC)
It looks delicious.
Jun. 23rd, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
It was tasty enough that I made it twice. :D Too bad it is too late in the season for wild alliums now.
Jun. 23rd, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful, beautiful post!!

I love your photos (especially that last one of S, at the end, plus her with all the garlic flowers and with the greens), and I shall try your soup--modified to take account of what's growing near here.

Jun. 23rd, 2012 06:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you
I can't wait to hear how it turns out. :D
Jun. 23rd, 2012 07:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you
May not be for a couple of days as I have two other meals planned, but I'm looking forward to making it!
Jun. 23rd, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
Looks delicious, and great photos too!
Jun. 24th, 2012 11:46 am (UTC)
thank you. :D
Jun. 23rd, 2012 10:16 pm (UTC)
It's so pretty! :)

(And I've just confirmed that the plant next to the chicken coop that I was 99% sure was an elderberry and not it's slightly poisonous look-alike is indeed and elderberry)
Jun. 24th, 2012 11:46 am (UTC)
All I keep seeing are the poisonous look-alikes here. :(
Jun. 24th, 2012 12:29 pm (UTC)
Can you tell the difference? I was told the difference is that the poisonous look-alike is an annual plant, whereas the elderberry is not.

But if you could teach me to see the difference immediately that would be great. :D
Jun. 24th, 2012 02:06 pm (UTC)
Really pretty post and nice soup indeed!!
Jun. 24th, 2012 09:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you, my love. I'm glad you enjoyed that soup. I wouldn't have posted the recipe if you hadn't. :P
Jun. 24th, 2012 02:13 pm (UTC)
Mmmm, that really looks good, and it must be extra satisfying to go out and forage it all like that.

Oh, yes, re to go around with an expert, wow, you can't beat that. Experts, well, people with a passion like that are truly lovely to be around. I went on a bird tour for the Kirkland's Warbler, and happened to be with a group (dare I saw flock, heh) of real birders, and what a difference it made! They just, well, you learn so much, being around the real deal.
Jun. 24th, 2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
Yes, the best part is knowing you FOUND your own food. Very empowering.

Passion is infectious and and the learning, I'd soak it up like a sponge.
Jun. 24th, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
I'd really love to learn about edible plants here too. I know asparagus grows wild here (there's been some AMAZING fresh, organic stuff for sale from a farm right here in Tekoa), and of course the wild herbs: rosemary, sage, and spearmint. And lavender, though I wouldn't put that in food. I know lemongrass and verbana grow wild here too but I don't know how to recognize them.

I love the pics of Soelie the best :D Gotta love that impish grin!

Jun. 25th, 2012 12:30 pm (UTC)
We used to have a tussock of lemongrass growing in our yard in Mayotte. Boy do I miss not having it around.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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