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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.