Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Les­lie Ged­des-brown

Les­lie Ged­des-brown is amazed at what you can do with gar­lic

IT’S rare to dis­cover a taste that’s com­pletely new to you, but this year I did—at my lo­cal farm shop. It’s gar­lic jam. At first, I was put off by the name, think­ing of straw­berry jam on bread and but­ter. Gar­lic jam for tea? Def­i­nitely not. How­ever, it ac­tu­ally isn’t that kind of jam— think, in­stead, of cheese, crack­ers and un­salted but­ter. Or cold roast ham and, I’m afraid to say, just a spoon­ful when no one’s look­ing.

Gar­lic jam is quite sweet and the gar­lic taste is more a sug­ges­tion than a shouted com­mand. Very, very good.

I had orig­i­nally thought it came from a long-lost 17th-cen­tury recipe, but no, it was in­vented by the Boswell fam­ily, who run The Gar­lic Farm on the Isle of Wight —up to 30 acres of land ded­i­cated to all things gar­lic. As well as the jam, they have more than 60 prod­ucts, such as pick­les, chut­neys, oils and but­ters and, most re­cently, Black Gar­lic Vodka (which I’m too scared to try).

Manag­ing direc­tor Natasha Ed­wards, el­dest daugh­ter of Colin and Jenny Boswell, who run the farm, says: ‘A lot of recipes come from Mum’s kitchen.’ Among these have been Vam­pire’s Re­venge, a hot plum chut­ney, and, a favourite of mine, smoked gar­lic but­ter.

You can also buy smoked gar­lic bulbs (£2.50), which are sur­rounded with oak chip­ping fumes for 48 hours and are de­li­cious in a tra­di­tional gratin dauphi­noise, and black gar­lic (a tub of peeled cloves is £4.95), slowly heated un­til it turns a sin­is­ter black. Mix it with soy sauce to use as a salmon or chicken glaze.

The Boswell fam­ily also en­cour­age grow­ing your own gar­lic, rec­om­mend­ing their Solent Wight, the most adapt­able; Pi­cardy Wight, which puts up with a cooler and wet­ter cli­mate; and Mer­s­ley Wight, bred from an Au­vergne va­ri­ety. You can get a pack of all three for £14.95 (I have). It’s still fine to plant them, al­though it should be done by mid March.

Natasha thinks that the farm is the largest in Bri­tain and was started by ‘Granny No­rah’ Boswell more than 50 years ago. The is­land, one of the most southerly parts of Bri­tain, is good, be­cause gar­lic likes both sun and plenty of day­light. Ex­cept, of course, wild gar­lic, which grows like a weed in wood­lands. Ran­soms or Al­lium ursinum, called be­cause bears like to chew its leaves, is a true Bri­tish wild plant and can be for­aged in shady wood­lands, but you’ll need to get per­mis­sion first.

It’s not only bears that like A. ursinum—i do, too. In spring, I’m frus­trated by acres of the broad green leaves thrust­ing through the leaf mould in unat­tended wilder­nesses, but I’ve never dared ac­tu­ally pick them. I do grow some of the bulbs for their leaves in a wet, shady part of our gar­den, but noth­ing like enough.

Try the wild-gar­lic soup I found in Switzer­land made with leeks, pota­toes, stock and cream cooked and blended. If you put hand­fuls of gar­lic leaves in at the last minute be­fore blend­ing, the liq­uid be­comes a de­light­ful leafy-green colour. Leaves also work as a herb and, as you will see if you buy a Yarg from the Cor­nish Lyn­her Dairies, it can be used as a nat­u­ral outer coat­ing for cheese.

It’s strange to think that, in the 1950s, gar­lic was con­sid­ered a nasty for­eign in­comer, most suit­able to hold in front of the fangs of a vam­pire, should you hap­pen to meet one. Recipes ner­vously rec­om­mended rub­bing the salad bowl with a clove, but not, cer­tainly not, us­ing them whole along with the let­tuce.

Now, chunks of them are con­sid­ered es­sen­tial and, as The Gar­lic Farm has dis­cov­ered, also as a back­ground in­gre­di­ent in other dishes.

I like to imag­ine the large Boswell fam­ily at work in their kitchen in­vent­ing new gar­lic ideas. Mean­while, I’m off to have some Yarg cheese with gar­lic jam.

‘ It’s strange to think gar­lic was con­sid­ered a nasty for­eign in­comer ’

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