Hilary Eats Urban Herbology

Urban Herbology & Wild Garlic Oil

 

I got in touch with a new level of urban dining this week, picking food from the city park, cooked with it and ate it. Yes, a few meters from where dogs pee and people walk. I made a divine infused oil with my harvest and the experience was incredibly informative and enriching.

Key Takeaway: don’t ever cut it, pick carefully and conservatively. 3-6 leaves makes enough for this oil.

Urban Edibles
Edibles exist quietly all around us, even in the bustling urban center of Amsterdam. You may have noticed  in the more wooded parks like Amsterdamse Bos and Flevopark in the East around now with Spring beginning to fling, a certain garlicky aroma in the air. You are probably surrounded by a plume of Wild Garlic or Allium ursinum, Ramps or Daslook in Dutch, which grows rampant in many areas of the city as a beautiful, stinking ground cover that makes a gorgeous accent in an infused oil with many uses. Dip some crusty bread in it, drizzle it on roasted vegetables or as a salad dressing with a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. Divino

Where Food Comes From
Food does not come from the grocery store. Unfortunately for most of us, it does 100% of the time, and that is a shame. By institutionalizing our relationship to food, we have sterilised our connection to it and the process that surrounds it. Dirt and such. I did some happy dirt work for food’s sake on a walk with Lynn Shore. Lynn is an Urban Herbologist, Permaculturalist and Modern Medicine Woman of the Herbal variety. She’s not too crunchy granola but full of earthly wisdom. Talking gibberish? More on this foreign language later…

 

Infused Wild Garlic Oil
Total Time: 3 hours, includes a walk in the woods or park, about 2 hours simmering but just 10 mins to prep so don’t be discouraged, this is more fun than hard work and the results last you for many meals and definitely offer bragging rights.

1 clean, sterilised jar with lid of 200-230g
200-230ml of extra virgin olive oil
3-6 leaves of wild garlic (or 3 cloves of garlic sliced, not chopped)

Read below for how to pick your wild garlic, or just use garlic cloves instead. If using regular garlic, slice the cloves rather than chopping them and set aside. For wild garlic, wash and dry your garlic leaves and set aside on a cloth or paper towel (water will cause mold to grow in the oil rather quickly). Prepare a bain marie in a pot that can accommodate your jar with about 3 fingers high of water and set it to simmer over low heat. Now slice your garlic leaves cross-wise about an index finger wide and put the sliced leaves in the jar. Pour your olive oil over the leaves and pop the sealed jar into the warm water and simmer for up to 2 hours. Strain or fish out the leaves and store this fragrant masterpiece in a cool, dark place.

How to Pick Wild Garlic
Wild Garlic is an endangered species in many places like the Netherlands and Quebec, so only pick it where it grows abundantly, where pesticides are not used, and never cut it. Try to leave no trace that you were there, stepping lightly. Reach down to the base and gently pluck one leaf from a plant and move on to another to leave that plant enough to regenerate and live a long and healthy life. Or better yet, don’t do anything stupid (like eating the similar looking yet poisonous Lily of the Valley instead) and get informed with a guided Herbal Walk, in Amsterdam with Lynn herself, or use a guide book for your area like this one for Northern Europe.

Urban Herbology
Lynn treats herbs as medicine, e.g. you can chew young weeping willow with buds for headache relief, it contains natural aspirin. She grows a lot of her own food in the city in a complimentary farming system (Permaculture) and takes from the land only 1/10 of what she finds so it can always grow back, Herbology rather than Foraging, which implies the food you pick is more of an accent than a staple of your diet or dish.

Bon Appétit!