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Wild Garlic Facts, Identification, and Delicious Recipes to Make

wild garlic information
Wild Garlic Growing in Early March 2021. Photo: Helena Kirk

Common name Wild Garlic/Ramsons 

Latin name: Allium Ursinum 

Seasons:

Leaves: February-May

Flowers: May-June

Bulb: June-December

Wild Garlic Facts

Wild garlic is probably one of the most popular wild edible plants to forage in spring. Wild garlic is also known as wild leeks, wood leeks, bear leeks, ramsons, or ramps. Wild garlic is recognizable by its green spear-shaped leaves and beautiful, white star-shaped flowers growing in clusters. You can forage for wild garlic leaves in North America and Northern Europe from around February-May, pick the flowers from May-June and dig up the bulbs from June-December. But it all depends on where you live. 

The wild garlic flowers are white and are perfectly edible also when they are still buds. Wild garlic is very invasive, and you will often find them growing as a large carpet throughout the forest floor. The plant is between 15 and 45 centimeters tall. You will especially notice the strong smell of garlic when you walk by them. Wild garlic is not only tasty but also has a lot of health benefits:

  • Wild garlic contains vitamin A, C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, and copper. The amount of vitamin C is 20 times the amount of vitamin C in lemons! 
  • Wild garlic lowers blood pressure 
  • Wild garlic has antibacterial and antibiotic properties

Wild Garlic Identification and Possible Misidentification

When you have an idea of how wild garlic should look like, the best way to identify it correctly is by smelling it. Does it smell like garlic/onion when you rub it between your fingers? – Then you have correctly identified wild garlic. If you see a plant, that looks like wild garlic but stands alone, it could be that you have found the poisonous plant called Lily of the Valley instead. You can therefore misidentify wild garlic with lily of the valley which is very poisonous in all parts of the plant. Lily of the valley does not smell of garlic, so that is something you should be aware of. 

Foraging Wild Garlic Leaves

At the beginning of March, I usually start looking for wild garlic leaves. The leaves are so full of flavor, that it is enough to just forage the leaves. Foraging wild garlic leaves is also the most common way of using the plant. However, also the flowers and bulbs are really tasty. When foraging for wild garlic leaves, make sure to pick the younger leaves underneath. They have much more flavor than the older leaves. Bring a basket or plastic bag to store the leaves before bringing them home. 

Wild Garlic Leaves
Wild Garlic Leaves. Photo: Lennert Kools

Wild Garlic Bulb

The wild garlic bulb can be used in the same way as you would use a garlic clove. If you live in an area with a scarce amount of wild garlic, be sure to only pick the leaves and not the bulbs. Otherwise, you will remove the plant, and there will soon be nothing left for the future. You can instead transplant them into your own garden, or other places to sustain the wild garlic for many more years to come. 

Where to Find Wild Garlic

Wild garlic can be found in wooded shady locations and damp ground in deciduous forests. When harvesting wild garlic and other wild foods in general, be sure to get permission from the owner of the land or check the rules of the forest that you are foraging in. Read more about general foraging guidelines here.

Wild Garlic Taste, Uses and Recipes with Wild Garlic

Wild garlic can be eaten just as it is: Both the flowers, leaves, and bulbs can be eaten raw. Just expect a very powerful taste when eaten raw. Wild garlic tastes of garlic and onion, but has a bit more sweet and less strong taste than garlic. Wild garlic can be used as a replacement for garlic or onion in different dishes, it can be used raw in salads or sprinkled on dishes. I have developed several different recipes using wild garlic: 

Wild Garlic Sea Salt

Wild Garlic Sea Salt is a great way to preserve wild garlic throughout the year. It is easy to make, and you can store it for at least a year. Not only does it look stunning with its green color, it also tastes super delicate and can impress your friends and family. 

wild garlic sea salt
Wild Garlic Sea Salt. Photo: Helena Kirk

Wild Garlic Butter

Wild garlic butter is an easy way of using some of the freshly foraged wild garlic leaves in spring. Wild garlic butter is extremely delicious and can be used on bread, in mashed potatoes, in soups, grilled vegetables, or in any other dish, you would normally use butter in (except in sweet dishes of course). You can also save wild garlic butter in the freezer, and use it at a later time. 

wild garlic butter
Wild Garlic Butter. Photo: Helena Kirk

Creamy Wild Garlic, Leek, and Potato Soup

A lot of people make soup using wild garlic and nettles, but I wanted to try a more filling soup. I love potato and leek soup, so I thought it would be fun to try to add some wild garlic. And what a surprise! It is the most amazing outcome – so creamy, so full of flavor, so delicious!

Wild Garlic, Leek, and Potato Soup. Photo: Helena Kirk

Classic Wild Garlic Pesto

You can’t ignore the classic way of using wild garlic leaves: wild garlic pesto. Pine nuts, wild garlic leaves, parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt make the perfect combo. 

Classic Wild Garlic Pesto. Photo: Helena Kirk

Wild Garlic Barbecue Marinade

This wild garlic barbecue marinade consists of wild garlic leaves, olive oil, herbs, chili, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. It is perfect as a marinade for meat, chicken, vegetables, or fish either cooked in the oven or grilled on the barbecue. You can marinate the meat the night before you need it so that it can really absorb the flavors from the wild garlic marinade.

Wild Garlic Barbecue Marinade. Photo: Helena Kirk

How to Store Wild Garlic

You can store your foraged wild garlic in a plastic container or plastic bag, with a little bit of water in the refrigerator for about 5-7 days. 

How to Freeze Wild Garlic

You can freeze wild garlic by chopping them finely and freeze in a plastic bag or plastic container. Do not blanch the wild garlic before freezing. 

wild garlic ramsons foraging
Wild Garlic. Photo: Helena Kirk

I hope you found this wild garlic information useful, and I welcome all suggestions in the comments below.

Still hungry for more wild garlic information? Check out my Instagram “Nordic_forestfoods”, where I share tips and tricks about wild garlic leaves and other wild foods in general! 

4 Comments

  1. Julia York Reply

    A beautiful post. I love wild garlic… I’m lucky to have some growing in a wild part of the garden… pretty pungent on warm days. Love the recipes too, I hadn’t thought of using it to make a pretty looking butter before.

  2. All the recipes look absolutely delicious! I must try them one day!

  3. Arica Aspenson Reply

    This is an excellent post! I don’t know much about foraging, but this is super helpful! I’ll have to see if we have wild garlic where I live! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Pingback: Wild Garlic Tzatziki - Nordic Forest Foods

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