Stinking Nanny Anyone?


The shadowy margins of the Linden Walk near my house and the old railway line that runs alongside are presently lit by  white-star carpets. Ramsons. Stink Bombs. Stinking Nanny. Londoner’s Lilies. Thank you, Richard Mabey and your Flora Britannica for all these country names for wild garlic.

I know many people loathe the smell of this plant, and it can indeed be overpowering on warm days, but whenever I catch a whiff, it simply inspires me to cook. You can eat the leaves and flowers. On Friday I used them to make a pesto sauce to go with steamed carrots, assorted allotment greens and braised salmon.

This is what I did to make it:

  • Took a good handful of broken walnuts and lightly toasted them in a little olive oil
  • Roughly chopped a dozen flower heads and a small bunch of garlic leaves
  • Tipped all with the walnuts into a food processer
  • Added more olive oil to cover, salt, black pepper and squeeze of fresh lemon juice and blitzed. More oil can be added according to taste and requirements.

This is good with pasta, or spooned on the top of fresh-made soup, especially broad bean, or the classic pistou. In his Food for Free book Richard Mabey also quotes the sixteenth century writer, John Gerard, who writing in The Herbal (1597) says that in Europe the leaves are used to make a sauce to go with fish, and adds that these may:

very well be eaten in April and May with butter, of such as are of strong constitution, and labouring men.

And what about labouring women, good sir? This particular one has great liking for ramsons. In fact I’m thinking now of using them to lace a homemade tomato sauce. Bon Appétit , and happy foraging.

And please pop over to Jude’s Garden Challenge. This month she wants to see our wild flower photos.


24 thoughts on “Stinking Nanny Anyone?

  1. Yes! I love this plant – and the smell – as well. Along my Morning Constitutional route one of the residents of Gerard Street has dug up the municipal verge and planted it in abundance. This particular variety has small purple flowers.

  2. …also known as buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek, and bear’s garlic but I do rather like your Stinking Nanny! Best not to get it confused with Lily of the Valley though…
    We seem to have more of the wild onion, or three-cornered leek around here. Allium triquetrum which has narrower leaves and looks like a white bluebell. I might try using it to make your pesto.

  3. I’ve never heard them called Londoners Lilies, but the rest I know. I love to walk in woods and smell them before I see them. Always wanted to try cooking with them but didn’t know how, so I’ve copied your recipe for ‘one day’!

    1. The leaves need hardly any cooking. You could add them to steamed spinach, or just chop them in with any veg like a herb. Good in a cheese sauce I should think.

  4. Great post Tish. I wonder if the smell is an attraction to pollinating insects? At night when the scent is strong I imagine moths might be attracted? Thanks

  5. What an interesting lot of names I don’t think I have seen this plant around here. Love the white against the emerald green leaves.

  6. Sadly, I remember the case of poisoning in Slovenia. A young couple thought they were picking these but instead were taking poisonous Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley, and I think they died. 😦 Such cases are not uncommon. I wish people were more cautious around nature sometimes. That said, your recipe sounds yummy.

  7. Hi Tish, and HAPPY EASTER!

    The leaves of this looks or reminds me of RAMPS that grow wild in the mountains around here, the stalks in the ground kind of reminds you of Leeks but much more slender and spindly. They are delicacy here for Ramp Suppers, used in stews, baked, fried all sorts of ways, they kind of are cross flavor wise between onions and garlic. I believe they are a member of the onion “Allium” family. Your picture makes them look to good to be stinky though, here I guess you could really say “Looks can be Deceiving”

    1. Yes, Mitch, I think we’re on the same page, or indeed plate with this one – wild garlic is also called Ramsons in the UK. Not too far away from Ramps. I bet they’re pretty much the same plant. Happy Easter to you too.

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