Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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I don't mind what you call it. In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly this plant is often called wild garlic. Those who call it this know what they mean. They know they're talking about the onion grass, the long, thin one that smells of garlic. In Australia and New Zealand it's known as onion weed.

This blog is all about three-cornered leek, or whatever name you call it by. I describe its unique qualities, where it grows and how it compares to using wild garlic/ramsons (Allium ursinum) in recipes.

Three cornered leek is also in my Wild Food Foraging book and I regularly teach it on my foraging courses, especially in spring.

Three-cornered leek (Allium triquetrium) goes by many local names, but only one latin one. All the local names refer to its garlicky smell; onion grass, onion weed, wild garlic, three-cornered garlic, three-cornered onion or three-cornered leek. A member of the allium family it originates from the Mediterranean, Madeira, Canary Islands and North Africa.

It was originally introduced to the UK in the 18th century and the rest is history.

Why is it called three-cornered?

It has three-corners! A subtle triangle shape is visible when you horizontally cut a leaf and a clear triangular shape is visible on a cut flower stem. When not cut, a ridge is noticeable on the leaves, acting almost like a spine which makes the leaves more buoyant and upright.

Which parts can you eat?

You can eat all of this plant - the roots, flowers, flower buds, leaves and flower stems. Here in Cornwall I start eating it through winter when the leaves are greener and before the flowers start to show.

The Roots

Showing the roots of three-cornered leek

The roots of three-cornered leek are similar to spring onions though a little more watery and sweeter. Like leeks, they take a bit of time to clean up and remove the mud.

Remember that in the UK you need permission to dig up roots. However, I've never been refused permission to dig up these roots. People are often very grateful for me to take this plant away as it spreads really easily.

The Leaves

The leaves are the mildest part of the plant. Sometimes I cook them by sweating them down in a little oil or butter. They have a mild onion flavour this way.

The Flowers and Buds

The flowers and flower buds have a strong garlicky crunch. I love sprinkling them over salads and using them as an edible garnish. The buds are lovely pickled too. The flowers are white with a distinct green stripe on them.

Flower Stems

These are my favourite parts as they are the sweetest. I love chewing on them as I walk, they are one of my favourite spring walk snacks!

Wild Garlic

Three Cornered Leek v Wild Garlic

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is stronger, earthier garlic flavour. It has broad leaves and tends to grow in woodlands and near streams. It lends itself well to baking and cooking.

Three cornered leek (Allium triquetrium) is milder and sweeter in flavour. It likes to grow in warmer climates and thrives well in open spaces and hedgerows in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It lends itself well to using raw, like spring onion.

allium triquetrium

I often think that if a plant is in abundance, consider it a gift. Here's a simple recipe which uses a handful of this wonderful, edible weed. You could also use wild garlic, aka ramsons (Allium ursinum) or any of the allium family that you have growing nearby. You can use the leaves, stems, flowers, seed-pods and roots.

Find out more about three-cornered leek here.

TOP TIP: Three cornered leek is quite a watery plant in the height of spring, so it is good to mash it under a rolling pin, or mash it as you knead to ensure you don't have pockets of moisture in your bread mix. You may need a little less water because of this too.

Three-Cornered Leek Bread

You can use the stems, leaves, bulbs and flowers for this recipe to create a mild, onion flavoured bread. Remember you need permission to dig up the roots.

Ingredients

  • 200 g fresh three-cornered leek
  • 500 g wholemeal flour
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp quick yeast
  • 1 dessert spoon honey
  • 400 ml warm water
  • 1  tbsp olive oil

Wash the three-cornered leek thoroughly, removing any limp outer leaves, and, if using, the outer layer of the bulbs and roughly chop everything into 3 cm pieces. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put the flour, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir. Add the three-cornered leek and stir in. Dissolve the honey in the warm water and slowly add to the flour mix. Stir in, adding the oil. Knead for 10 minutes, then shape, and place in a greased 1 kg loaf tin.

Cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place for 20 minutes, or until doubled in size. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until hollow sounding when tapped.

Freshly baked homemade wild garlic bread

Here are some other posts for three cornered leek. Enjoy.

Spring is exciting - a combination of warmth and light gets plants, animals and human-animals going. Sometimes, for me, too going. The term mad march hare feels too close to home for me, as I prance around the hedgerows picking wild greens as if there is no tomorrow, or as if spring won't last forever, which of course it won't. Lets face it, we've often being waiting a while for it to come too.

Many wild greens respond well to being plucked, for example when the tops of nettles are snipped off this stimulates more growth and leaf tops to grow. So below I've chosen 5 common wild foods that arrive every year, a plenty and are happy to be plucked, appreciated and eaten.

Here are my top 5 pick-ables (non-technical term :)) for this spring, I have loads of nuggets of information and recipes to share on each of them, though for now I'll keep it brief.

My Top Five Spring Wild Foods

1. Stinging Nettles Urtica dioica

Never under-estimate a common plant, believe me, nettles are a valuable food and we are lucky to have them. Their nutrition and versatility makes them easy to use (just avoid being stung) and they are (in my humble opinion and according to nutritional facts) better for you than spinach or cabbage.

2. Wild Garlic Allium family

The wild onion, garlic and leek family is vast and too large to go into here, though their commonalities include a wonderful garlic taste (and smell), anti bacterial properties and support for the heart. The whole of the plant can be used and it can be used raw or cooked - raw is stronger. It is one of the key edibles of spring.

3. Cleavers/Goosegrass Galium aparine

Cleavers spread. They grow up to 1 metre long and can be collected without a bag (let them stick to you). The leaves are a wonderful spring cleanser and support the urinary and lymphatic system, though best cooked to avoid the not so pleasant hairy texture when raw and use in small amounts. I like to just pluck the tops and sweat them with nettles in butter or oil.

4. Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum

Writing this from the south coast of Cornwall, Alexanders are definitely on my list. Abundant and often considered an invasive (land managers around Bristol have also practically pleaded with me to pick and eat them too). Nutritious and versatile, if you just know how to use them and pick them early on in spring.

5. Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa

Sorrel sap is tart and lemony and at its best in spring, and once you get your eye in, you'll start to see it everywhere. Delicious added to so many savoury and sweet dishes, though don't eat too much as it contains oxalic acid which isn't good to eat in large amounts. A little is fine though.

So there you have it, my five favourite wild greens, and yes greens are best in spring. Next spring, maybe I'll share a different five, as there's always more to share.

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