It all started a few weeks ago with the wild garlic oil posted by The Circus Gardner. Then, a few days after that post came garlic and arugula chimichurri by Liz @ Spades, Spatulas and Spoons. In between there were a smattering of posts of recipes using the European wild garlic – Allium ursinum, exactly what I have enthusiastically spreading in my herb garden. Put all these ingredients together and I came up with my own pungent garlicky green sauce for meat, fish, cheese, eggs and veggies. A very versitile sauce!
Once I settled on making a green sauce, I couldn’t help but investigate the history of these condiments that consist of mashed or chopped fresh green herbs. Somehow it came as no surprise that green sauces existed in ancient times, said to have come from the Near East to the Mediterranean. According to Andrew Dalby in his book on Greek and Roman food, Siren Feasts, the Greek writer Athenaeus of the 3rd century AD mentions trimmátion, a sauce made with ground fresh herbs moistened with vinegar and/or oil. Apicius’ collection of cookery from the 4th or early 5th century AD, De Re Coquinaria, lists in Book VI (among other herbal sauces) specific instructions for making Ius viride in avibus, which translates as green sauce for fowl, made with “all kinds of green herbs” mashed in a mortarium (a Roman mortar) together with other ingredients such as pepper, caraway seeds, dates, honey, vinegar and oil.
So given its antiquity, it is no wonder that many cultures, particularly those with Roman histories, have developed green sauces – for example, salsa verde (Italian and Spanish), molho verde (Potuguese) and sauce verte (French). The list of ingredients for each is versatile, adapted to taste preferences and availability of ingredients. But, one thing they have in common is the abundance of fresh green herbs. More specific mixtures, such as gremolata, chimichurri, pesto, persillade and even the popular British mint sauce, are probably derived from these generic green sauces.
Wild Garlic Salsa Verde
Keep it fresh. Make only as much as you will need and only shortly before using. It is an extremely simple condiment to make.
- 2 Tablespoons pickled capers
- Handful fresh basil (approximately 8-10 sprigs)
- 10 to 12 fresh wild garlic leaves
- 1 sprig of mint
- 2 Tablespoons white balsamic or good quality white wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 dried hot red chilli peppers (peperoncini), optional
Roughly chop the cleaned herbs and the dried red chilli. Combine all the ingredients in a small food processor and process until the capers and the leaves of the basil, mint and wild garlic have become emulsified in the oil and vinegar. Serve fresh with meats, fish, cheese, hard boiled eggs or suitable vegetables that go well with basil and garlic.