Foraging Diaries - Wild Garlic - Allium ursinum

"Walking through the forest, there was a gentle breeze, the pungent smell of Garlic floated through the air. I looked around and sure enough, there it was, a large carpet of Wild Garlic covering the forest floor"

Family: Alliaceae

Botanical Description

Height: up to 50 cm

Leaves: long, spear-shaped, fresh green leaves

Flowers: tiny clusters of star-like, white flowers (April-June)

Root and stem: onion-like sprouting a triangular stem

Foliage: patchy coverage in some areas and creating a woodland carpet in others

Status: Perennial. Native

Habitat: Deciduous woodland, hedgerows, river banks

Parts used for food: Young leaves, flowers, flower bud, seeds, root

Harvest Time: February to April

Also known as Ramsons, Ramsomes, Wild Leek, Buckrams, Broad-leaves garlic, Wood garlic, Gipsy Onion, Hog's Garlic, Bear Leek or Bear’s garlic. Wild Garlic grows in damp woodland, can often be found in marshlands or near water drainage ditches in Britain and throughout Europe.

The reference to bears, comes from the belief that bears ate Wild Garlic to regain their strength after their Winter hibernation. Ursinum is Latin for bear. In magical traditions, plants of the bear contain the power of renewal and purification Wild Garlic is easily identified by its distinctive smell, long pointed leaves and white flowers which bloom at the end of the season. Don’t pick Wild Garlic which has large amounts of white flowers, as this indicates older leaves which are likely to be slightly woody and bitter in flavour.

The pungent smell of garlic makes it easy to identify, but always take care when foraging your own ingredients, there have been cases of people mistaking poisonous plants, such as Lily of the Valley for Wild Garlic.

When it comes to foraging a good rule of thumb to abide by:

If in doubt, leave it out

A less well-known table vegetable than its domesticated relative, Wild Garlic is a truly tasty culinary treat. It can be used in the same way as any herb or green. Wilt into dishes, mixing with Spinach or Sea Beet works well, as a lot of Wild Garlic can sometimes be overpowering. Add to omelettes, dips, cream cheese or sauces. Use as a side to fish, and can also be used in salads using the leaves or the flowers, and to make Garlic butter or Garlic mayonnaise. As it is best picked in Spring there are various ways you can preserve it to use later on, add to Olive Oil and freeze in ice-cubes, perfect sized portions to add to dishes. The leaves can also be frozen or made into pesto, if dried though it loses much of it's flavour. The possibilities are endless, enjoy experimenting.