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April 16, 2012

We were a mile away, inching our way up a one-track British lane bordered by freshly sprouting hedges, when suddenly my nose twitched. And twitched again. I recognized the fragrance immediately and knew that we were close to Llwyn Ffranc Farm, home to fields upon fields of wild garlic.

Wild Garlic, freshly foraged.

We’d met Stephen Powell, one of the forces behind the Community Forest Farm at Llwyn Ffranc, several weeks before at his stall in the Abergavenny Farmer’s Market. Knowing he was the wild garlic man, and expecting to see baskets of white and pink bulbs, we were surprised when Stephen pointed to a pile of rich green leaves spread out on the table. Wild Garlic. Lovely to meet you. Now what do I do with you?Stephen explained that, like many herbs, wild garlic is perfect in stews, sauces and especially mashed potatoes. Paul grinned immediately, licked his lips, and before you could say Llwyn Ffranc, a white paper bag containing the shining leaves was in our hand.

Yes, laced with the chopped wild garlic, the potatoes were delicious. But we knew there was something more exciting ahead as Stephen had invited us to go foraging during the Wild Garlic Celebration.

Hence, the drive north of Abergavenny, to the base of the Skirrid Mountain. There, we parked the car in a field and headed to the stone house to await our guide who would take us into the woods!  An assorted group gathered, all properly prepared to hike into the hills, and all carrying bags to fill with their harvest. For a city girl like me, THIS WAS EXCITING!

I must mention, Paul and I have tried many times to plant and harvest our own vegetables. My tomato plants came with large green worms attached. Paul’s potatoes got rot. Our mint, known to take over a garden if you let it, shriveled up and died. We love the thought of planting and harvesting, but actually being successful at it is beyond our talents. So, foraging someone else’s field is a perfect pastime for us.

Up the hill we marched, keeping to the tail end of the group as Paul’s gout and other maladies afflicting the elderly (!) were acting up. Slopping through mud, inching up the inclines as if we had skis on our feet, and totally messing up my new wellies and their leopard-trimmed inserts, we finally made it to the wild garlic fields.

Heading for the hills!

The green carpet of leaves was so lush I wanted to lie down and roll in it, but that would have been frowned upon I’m sure. So I contented myself by squatting and picking the leaves, placing them gently in my bag, and moving over and across the ravines weaving in and out of the hillside.Soon the group was ready to climb back down the mountain, but this time, we led the brigade and slid our way down, stopping now and again to admire the bluebells and buttercups, the baby lambs and to listen to the silence. A forest is a wondrous place.

Up close and personal!

A warm cup of tea was waiting for us as we approached the farmhouse, followed by a cauldron of nettle and wild garlic soup, wild garlic pesto, squirrel pate (yes, I DID try it!), and apple and sloe jam. These were new experiences for this Yank, and as the sun slowly slid behind the Skirrid, I know I’d had an afternoon to treasure.A footnote to our day: we couldn’t get out of the field when we tried to leave. The mud had gotten soggier and our tires dug deeply into the muck. It took a team of fellow foragers to push our little car out, but not before soaking us, and them, in the rich, brown soggy earth that provides the nutrients for the wild garlic. We hit the car wash, wallowed in a bubble bath when we got home, and made mashed potatoes and wild garlic to go with our dinner! That, and a glass of wine, rounded out our experience of foraging on a mountainside. What a heavenly day!

Umm, what do we do now?


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Trudi permalink
    April 16, 2012 9:14 pm

    Wild garlic! I am enchanted! What a GREAT day, except for the mud of course. Lots of jealousy here 🙂

  2. Alan Herson permalink
    April 16, 2012 9:21 pm

    finished my work for the day. Read your blogs. Your words re; “Mom and Dad” rung true with the loss of my own parents. A time ever after when my few steps from intensive care to the nurses’ station just outside my mother’s room to announce her “passing” did not bring the entire world to a screaching halt. I acknowledged her death, and for one moment, wished that the world around me would do the same. I knew that such silliness was not to come. But, one can hope.
    The loss of your dad so soon thereafter must have been soul crushing. I offer my sincerest condolences. My dad’s death was prepared for within my psyche. Alsheimers was the villain.
    Go figure, we are now the “old folks”, for we have taken our parents’ place at the head of that table. Birth of your two grandchildren, and the circle of life continues. Me.
    P.S. Never knew what blog was.

  3. Malcolm permalink
    April 16, 2012 9:41 pm

    Glad you had such a good day. Keep up the good work.

  4. Pat permalink
    April 16, 2012 9:44 pm

    Wild Garlic leaves! Never heard of them before. Your blog was just what I needed this afternoon. Thank you so much for taking me on another trip with you.

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