I'd had a cursory look for some on the bank down by the stream, as that's the ideal environment for it, but didn't find any there. The this weekend there was a woodland fair in the village, and one girl was selling food made from wild ingredients. I asked her if she harvested her garlic locally. She wasn't local herself, but she'd heard that there's garlic by the railway line. Ah. That'll be the railway that runs right past my garden. I should really have another look, shouldn't I?
The stallholder at the fair also included sorrel in her recipes, and I'd spotted some of that in the garden last year, so on my way out to look for garlic this afernoon, I made a small detour up the garden steps (as if we had only one flight of steps in our garden!) to relocate the sorrel. I found it!
Hang on a minute, that looks just the same as...
Formerly unidentified plant in a flower bed, now identified as sorrel.
Poppies and nettles in the background
I first found these plants when I was digging over the vegetable beds. I asked my neighbour if she knew what they were and she said,
Yes, they're hesperis, they have scented white flowers.On another occasion I pointed out the sweet rocket in a different part of the garden, and she said that this is the same plant - hesperis is the latin name for sweet rocket. I was pretty sure they were different - I know sweet rocket (flowering now - beautiful scent) and the other plant has smaller leaves.
I'd left them a while to see what they might become, but was just getting round to the idea that they're nothing interesting. Now I've recognised them as sorrel, they're saved from the compost heap (though I've also spotted plenty elsewhere). It's funny how my plant knowledge comes and goes. I recognised sorrel easily in its usual habitat, but not in a cultivated bed, especially not when a friend had misidentified as something else.
Anyway, back to the garlic. I walked along the railway line (no trains today), looking for the distinctive white flowers, which should be out at this time of year. I didn't see any, but it was lovely to be out looking at wild flowers, even though it's a drisly, misty, 'orrible day today. Then I caught a whiff... faint, but definitely garlic. I slowed down, examined the bank on my left more carefully. The bank on the right fell away steeply. I could have got down there, but probably a lot more quickly than I'd have liked! I walked on a bit until I couldn't smell the garlic any more, then came back and looked again. The smell was definitely there, but I couln't see anything that looked like wild garlic. Eventually I gave up and came home to dry off.
This was encouraging and frustrating at the same time. I now know there's definitely some there somewhere, but I can't find it! I'll try again on a dryer day - perhaps in the woodland above that bank. I've no idea whether I'll be able to find the place again from the other side of the fence, but hopefully I'll be guided by the smell. Of course, it's possible that other foragers have been there before me, and all that's left is a few broken stalks (which would go against the ethos of foraging - you should never take more than half of what's there; in fact most people say don't take more than a third).
Oh, well. At least I found the sorrel.