This is has been the best week of the year for plants in England: wisterias, tree peonies, the incomparable Paeonia mlokosewiczii, the first bearded irises, and everywhere towering horse-chestnuts of white or red. But I turn to this lowly, smelly wild plant – Stinking Jenny or wild garlic – at the suggestion of Neville Goodman, whose sight was ravished with a tract of its white flowers while walking in the hills a week ago. I too have the happiest memories of it – smelt before seen – in the dappled sunshine of the deep Derbyshire dales, where it grows by the fast-flowing rivers of the Peak.
Wild garlic is becoming a popular ingredient in English gastronomy – wild garlic mayonnaise is an excellent substitute for traditional aioli with fish and raw vegetables. For gardens, however, a better plant is Allium triquetrum. This is a welcome but rampant spring bulb, best for a wild area or a neglected bank. The taste of the plant is mild and half way between garlic and onion; you can add any part of it you like to salads, including the white and green flowers or the bulbous root.