Few Flowered Garlic Identification and Recipes
Updated: May 2
I live by a river and I am lucky enough that my garden runs alongside the river. Every year I get a crop of this quite common, but largely unknown wild herb. The Few Flowered or Lesser Flowered Garlic or Leek.
The Few Flowered is called the Few or Lesser Flowered Garlic for obvious reasons. It has very few flowers. Largely the plant will have just the one flower per stalk, but sometimes, in particularly virulent years can have up to five. The flowers are white in colour and as they develop have a yellow / green bulbis which forms inside the flower eventually becoming its seed. The flower has five petals, which quickly becomes paper thin and dries as the plant matures.
The stem of the plant varies between 20cm and 30cm and it triangular in shape. The leaves are long and grass like sometimes reaching 40cm. At the base of each plant is a small bulb, that looks almost identical to that of a Spring Onion. The best means to identify it is by breaking the leaves and taking a whiff. The oniony smell so familiar if you pick Wild Garlic or grow your own Chives is there. Less powerful than the Wild Garlic but not less tasty.
The plant grows in patches, sometimes huge patches where it dominates and controls the area that it covers. The plant is in fact a very invasive weed and can be found in woods, waste land and in particular close to water. Probably travelling down river to my gardens edge where it now monopolises the area.
The Lesser or Few Flowered Garlic is an early riser, in the south of the UK you can see the leaves sprouting from February, it’s one of my favourite early leaves and always beats the Wild Garlic in terms of a head start. The season is short however and the plant will be passed its best not long after it flowers in April.
So, what does it taste like? Well.. It’s delicious. The name ‘lesser’ is not true of its flavour. The tender sweet oniony leaves are very similar to that of Garlic Chives or the green section of Spring Onions, even leek. You can eat it raw (make sure that the leaves are clean of course, particularly if you have picked it from a riverbank) but it can also be cooked. I like to use it as a herb, used in the same way that you might use Parsley or Chives.
Recipe wise, you can basically read up on any Wild garlic recipes and replace it with the equivalent volume. However, a great and completely delicious favourite of mine is to turn it into Few Flowered Garlic Pesto.
Few Flowered (or Lesser Flowered) Garlic Pesto
A large bunch or Lesser Flowered Garlic
2 Garlic Cloves
Packet of Pine Nuts
Good glug of Olive Oil
Half a cup of grated Parmesan Cheese
Squirt or Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to Season
This couldn’t be a more simple recipe. Make sure that you have cleaned your Few Flowered Garlic and shaken off the majority of the water. If you have picked the bulbs, cut them off, you only want to use the leaves. Rough cut the leaves and put them into a blender. Finely chop two cloves of Garlic, add them to the blender alongside a healthy glug of Olive Oil and a squeeze of Lemon juice.
Next you want to toast your Pine Nuts. I love toasted Pine Nuts, I could eat them all day and I like them brown and toasted. However, for this recipe and to make a really creamy Pesto you need to keep them quite light and try not to colour them. Once lightly toasted, allow them to cool slightly then add the Pine Nuts to the blender as well.
Next, grate your Parmesan Cheese, also add to the blender and season the mix generously. Pulse the Pesto until thoroughly mixed. That’s it! Your Pesto is made.
I used the Pesto alongside some fried off Chicken pieces and in the Pasta Water I also cooked some Broccoli. Stirred together and served with some more toasted Pine Nuts and Parmesan this makes for a wonderful dinner. Because the Few Flowered Garlic was on my land (and starting to take over), I pulled some of the plants to get their bulbs too. Given a thorough wash (the roots are quite fiddly and tangley), I chopped the bulbs and used them like onions, thinly slicing and frying them off as a base for the dish.
The Pesto, is powerfully oniony and savoury. But not overpoweringly so. The fresh green Few Flowered Garlic leaves add such an oniony freshness that I am sure, if you find or forage some, you’ll be coming back for more and more, over and over.
Used as a herb or as a main ingredient the Few flowered or Lesser Flowered Garlic is a fantastic little plant. It is truly delicious and my favourite part about it is that it comes up so early, filling the hungry gap just after the winter with lush green flavoursome growth. Go out and see if you can find some, create some recipes and share your ideas in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.
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