Or, wild capers with Bear Garlic!
If you live in old woodland, especially towards the Western Atlantic coast of Britain, you will walk in woodlands where extensive carpets of this supreme wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is found growing in lushious dense swards from January onwards in many areas, through to late May.
You can harvest the buds from early March carrying on through until mid April. To preserve by lacto-fermentation them, you can get to eat their powerhouse of vampire-killing medicine later on in the year, when the days are short, temperatures drop again, and various bugs and virus are doing the rounds.
You will need:
A bag for harvesting (resealable is best), a clean jar and lid, and the following ingredients:
A few hundred grams of ramsons flower buds
A few grams of Sea salt
Spring water (or decholrinated tap water)
What is lacto-fermentation?
This simple preserving method has been employed for thousands of years, and it’s name comes from the type of bacteria working their magic in the fermentation process, which in this instance are various Lacto-Bacillus species of bacteria, and very similar to the ones found in milk and yoghurt.
These beneficial organisms are anaerobic (perishing in air and only growing in oxygen-starved environments) and thriving in reasonably acidic conditions. Fermentation happens in a couple of stages….firstly by wiping out the nasty spoiling bacteria that cant survive in salty conditions, then through encouragement of the good guys, who produce lactic acid from the lactose and other sugars present in the plant material.
The benefits of fermented foods are that they help your digestive system, enabling us to recover from yeast infections, give us a wider array of beneficial enzymes, and are supposed to have anti inflammatory activities. Oh and they taste fantastic!
When placing the your plant material in jars, you need to ensure a couple of things:
Every 100 grams of material added requires about 2-5 grams of salt. Sea salt will be great. Try and avoid the man made table salt, with added iodine as this is thought to inhibit the fermentation process. The level of salt in the 2-5% per volume range can alter rates of fermentation; affect preservation longeivity, especially in warmer climates; together with the obvious impacts on flavour. It not only makes it impossible for many species of nasty spoiling microbes to survive, but also creates the perfect conditions for an array of beneficial Lacto-bacillus species.
By packing the material in as much as you can, you will be excluding the air as much as possible. If you bruise the material and draw some moisture out, then less water will be needed to cover. After absolutely packing the jar, you need to make sure the material is covered and remains covered, which can easily be done by a small stone.
The jars need burping once fermentation has got going, which is noticeable by numerous bubbles appearing in the jar, and will be accompanied by an audible release of CO2 when opening the lid. Store in a warm dark environment. Fermentation is of course temperature dependent, but should be evident within 72 hours.
How long you want them to ferment is up to you and your tastes. The longer you leave them then the more acidic the fermentation will taste. After 2-3 weeks you may want to place in a fridge if you have one, which will halt the ferment.