Here at the Swettenham Arms, we enjoy a fantastic rural location set in a network of country lanes. At the back of the pub is the Quinta Lovell Arboretum, set out by Sir Bernard Lovell of Jodrell Bank fame. There are many advantages to having a wildlife sanctuary for a neighbour, including lots of lovely walking and something different to see at each season of the year. One of the more unusual benefits, though, is that we’re lucky enough to have a natural source of wild garlic here on our doorstep, which the chef puts to good use with his great culinary flair to make our delicious wild garlic and new potato soup.
Wild garlic loves to grow abundantly in damp woodland areas. It has pretty, star shaped white flowers and as it loves the same growing conditions as bluebells, the two plants can often be seen together making a pretty, seasonal display. The plant has a strong, garlicky smell and if you’re walking along the paths in the Arboretum you can often smell it before you see it! It has long, dark green leaves and starts growing from late winter before flowering in the early spring. Unlike ‘normal’ garlic, the part that’s eaten is not the bulb but the leaves, which can be cooked or eaten raw. If you’re gathering wild garlic, pick it just as it starts to come into flower. A plant with lots of flowers is probably slightly past its best and could taste a little bitter.