Wild Garlic or Ramsons
Updated: May 6, 2019
Well what do you say about this wild herb... Except, I love it! What a fantastic ingredient to use, such a wonderful flavour and ever so versatile!
The Wild Garlic or given its latin name Allium Ursinum is known by many other names including; Ramsons, Bears Leek or Garlic, Broad Leaved Garlic, Wood Garlic and probably many more. The plant is a relative of the Wild Chive and part of the onion family, it is also very common across Europe and some parts of Asia.
Visit our shop for the very best Foraging Gear and Equipment.
The plant can grow up to half a metre in height and will be found in a variety of habitats ranging from the woodland floor or bordering freshwater rivers and streams. Wild Garlic loves to keep its feet wet and areas of the UK that have prolonged dry periods tend to have less Wild Garlic in their area. I live in the South East, so it has been relatively difficult (locally) to find patches of this wonderful wild food to harvest.
Although easy to identify the Wild Garlic does have a lookalikes that you should know about. This is the Lily of the Valley (see picture below), which happens to be extremely poisonous. You can see that it has bell shaped flowers but the leaves are incredibly similar. So don't presume that you are picking Wild Garlic unless you are reliably informed. If you find plants with thinner leaves but still that have that Garlic aroma, it could be that you have fined three cornered leeks or Few Flowered Garlic.
In season from April to June, the Wild Garlic or Ramson can be identified by its amazing aroma, indeed when walking through Woodland you are probably going to find it firstly with you nose. The smell is that of a fresh, herby, green garlic. Likened to Spring Onions, it's a powerful smell and one that sets my mind spinning with recipes and meals to come. The smell is a key aid in the identification of this wonderful plant.
The Wild Garlic has long spear head shaped green leaves and from April can be found proudly pointing its clusters of six petalled white flowers atop of long stems. The flowers are great eating too, the perfect addition to a salad and quite yummy as a snack whilst harvesting. When you are harvesting make sure that the plants (and water that it so much loves) is clean!
Oh, and while we talk about picking Wild Garlic. Please don't pick the bulbs. Its illegal and well, potentially unsustainable. Take the leaves and flowers and the plant will grow back, take the bulb and it will be gone (the bulbs are largely inedible anyway).
So you have identified the plant, now what to do with it. Well let me begin.
Recipes for Wild Garlic are probably as numerous as its names. You can eat young leaves and flowers raw in a salad, treat it like a salad leaf in a sandwich (Roast Chicken, Mayo and Wild Garlic is a favourite in our house). You can make Wild Garlic Pesto, perfect for pasta dishes. You can flavour pasta with it (try my Wild Pasta Recipe). Whilst in Italy we should also talk about Wild Garlic Focaccia, try that one and love it! Kiev, Soups, under Cheese on Toast, Pizzas, Butters.. The list of Wild Garlic recipes just goes on. This is simply a wonderful plant and a great one to start out with if you are just starting out with Foraging.
Alternatively, if you have a shady wet patch in your garden you can even grow your own Wild Garlic!
If you are at the beginning of your wild food journey or the most experienced forager during those Spring months I can pretty much see that Wild Garlic will be on the menu. So why not grab a pair of scissors and a trug and take yourself down to your nearest woodland and see if you you can find your own.