Outdoors: Nature Nite

Over the past few days the forest floor has swiftly changed from grey- brown to brilliant green, with the annual eruption of wild garlic. Properly known as ransoms - or in some parts of the country as ramps - Allium ursinum pushes up its fleshy, spear-shaped leaves at an astonishing rate, until they are 8in or 10in tall. Also astonishing is the smell, which, on chilly mornings, sweeps down out of the woods in great waves.

Young leaves make a deliciously pungent salad, and country lore has it that a rabbit which has been chased through garlic can go straight into the pot without further seasoning, so highly spiced is it when it reaches the kitchen. If free-range chickens eat garlic bulbs, the taste invades their eggs.

As the plants grow to maturity, each sends up a single stalk bearing a cluster of white, star-like flowers, so that you get the impression that there has been a sudden snowstorm. The anti-bacterial action of wild garlic has been credited with many medicinal properties, not least an ability to cure piles, and it is said to alleviate whooping cough, if applied to the soles of the feet.

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