How can so few people in Brittany (or at least my part of Brittany) know about three-cornered leeks? Until my recent (as in, 2 minutes ago) internet search I’ve been calling them wild garlic, which is what I was told they were when I encountered them in western Ireland. There, allium triquetrum grew in flowering masses along the narrow lanes and gave off a whiff of garlic any time you brushed past them. In Brittany, onion weeds (the New Zealand term) aren’t as widespread as I found in Ireland, and they’re far less well-known than bear’s garlic (or ransoms or allium ursinum – wild types of garlic sure have a lot of different names!).
I have yet to come upon a patch of bear’s garlic during my walks (just as I have yet to find or try ramps in the US), but I’ve become quite an avid forager of three-cornered leeks. They’re so pretty, so easy to use in the kitchen, and so ephemeral; a solid week of warmth and sunshine after they bloom and the flowers are gone. So, I drive to woods where I know I’ll find them. I drag friends along to pick them with me. I munch on the triangular or three-cornered stalks (the flavor’s like a lettuce-y chive) and pinch off the pungent flowers to pop in my mouth. In the kitchen, I use them lavishly, especially with eggs and potatoes.
My feeling is, if you really want to take the full measure of a wild edible’s flavor, the best way is to pair it with eggs or potatoes. (This is true for truffles as well.) Both are tasty, yet neutral, and let subtler flavors shine instead of masking them, warming wild edibles just enough to release their subtle aromas.
For a light lunch with a friend, I made this Spanish tortilla for two. Eggs + potatoes + lots of chopped three-cornered leeks and their flowers made for a special, seasonal meal that required next-to-no time, which meant we could take a longer walk around Cancale in the spring sunshine.
25 April 2017
Wild Garlic Spanish Tortilla
This is a pretty basic recipe for a Spanish tortilla (a potato-filled frittata), sized down to serve two. (You can double the amounts to make a larger tortilla.) It’s a great vehicle for delicately-flavored wild edibles or herbs, and since the season for wild garlic is so short and it’s not available to everyone, I encourage you to try it with lots of other add-ins. Serve the tortilla hot from the pan, or cooled to room temperature. It makes a great picnic take-along!
1 Tbs. olive oil
¾ lb. (300 g.) boiling, waxy, Yukon gold or new potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
¼ to ½ cup chopped wild garlic (triquetrum or ursinum), ramps, or chives, plus flowers, for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a small (6-inch/20 cm) skillet over medium heat. Add the diced potato, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and browned.
Meanwhile, Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl, stir in the wild garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the cooked potatoes to the bowl with a slotted spoon, and stir the egg mixture until combined. Return the skillet to the heat, and pour the egg mixture into the skillet, spreading the potatoes around to distribute them evenly. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until the bottom of the tortilla is browned and firm.
Slide the tortilla onto a large dinner plate. Put on oven gloves, place the skillet over the tortilla, and invert the plate so that the uncooked side is now face down in the skillet. Continue to cook on the stove 3 to 5 minutes more, or until the tortilla is cooked through. Serve sprinkled with flowers. Serves 2