Wild Garlic & Wellbeing
This is my favourite time of year – for many reasons – I love the sense of the Earth waking from it’s winter sleep, the signs of new life as the trees and plants spring to life and the birds waking me with their dawn chorus.
Also though the is Wild Garlic Season – Forest floors are covered with carpets of white blossoms creating in even the deepest forests an injection of brightness, beauty and life.
We can take advantage of this special time and take ourselves out into the wild to do some foraging and at the same time enhance our physical and mental wellbeing in the following ways.
Beauty and inspiration
Taking the time to get out into the fresh air and to exercise in these beautiful and rare wild places lifts the spirits, reduces stress and supports the immune system.
Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku, is the practice of spending time in a forest or other natural environment to improve overall health and wellbeing. The benefits of forest bathing are numerous and have been scientifically studied. Firstly, it has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. The scent of trees, the sound of running water, and the visual beauty of nature can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety. Secondly, forest bathing can improve immune function. Trees emit essential oils, called phytoncides, which have been shown to enhance the activity of natural killer cells in the body, which play an important role in fighting off disease. Additionally, spending time in nature can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Finally, forest bathing can improve overall mood and well-being, with many people reporting feeling happier and more energized after spending time in nature.
Wild places and gut health
The microbiome is a term that is not just limited to the human body, but can also refer to the vast array of microorganisms that exist in the soil. A healthy soil microbiome is essential for healthy plant growth, as the microorganisms present help break down nutrients and make them available to plants. However, recent research has also suggested that soil microbiomes may play a role in human health, particularly gut health. This is because the microorganisms present in the soil can have a beneficial impact on the gut microbiome, which in turn can impact overall health. Exposure to healthy soil microbiomes can help diversify the bacteria present in the gut, leading to improved digestion, stronger immune function, and even mental health benefits. Dr. Zach Bush an expert in this field suggests that we get ourselves out exercising in as many different wild places as possible in order to improve our gut health.
Health Benefits of Wild Garlic
Wild garlic, also known as ramsons, is a delicious and nutritious plant that can provide numerous health benefits. Firstly, it is packed with antioxidants, which can help protect the body against damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, wild garlic contains allicin, a compound known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, which can help strengthen the immune system and prevent infections. Wild garlic is also high in vitamins A and C, as well as minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium, all of which are important for maintaining good health. Moreover, wild garlic has been shown to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels and blood pressure, making it a great addition to a heart-healthy diet. Lastly, it has a delicious, pungent flavour and can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to pestos and salads.
Please always be careful when foraging in the wild that you are confident that you have identified the correct plant, if you have any doubts it’s best not to take any chances. Also make sure to be respectful of these wild places, only pick a small amount and take leaves from different plants so as not to kill the plant, we must forage in a way that is sustainable and which leaves no trace.
I will finish by sharing my favourite Wild Garlic Pesto recipe.
- 2 cups fresh wild garlic leaves, washed and dried
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the wild garlic leaves, toasted pine nuts, and grated Parmesan cheese in a food processor or blender.
- Pulse the ingredients a few times to combine them.
- Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the food processor while it is running, until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
- Transfer the wild garlic pesto to a jar or airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.
- The pesto can be used immediately or refrigerated for up to a week.
Note: Wild garlic leaves can have a strong flavor, so you may adjust the quantity according to your taste preferences.