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Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)

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Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)

You know it’s wild garlic season when the ground is carpeted in a sea of vibrant green leaves and there’s a a bold, garlicky aroma in the air! Wild Garlic is the green goddess of wild food and this pungent plant has become the darling of foragers everywhere. It has a long season (from February to June) and it just keeps on giving in terms of its versatility. From hummus to bruschetta, salmon to steak, this green trendsetter can turn bland ingredients into a flavour-packed MasterChef dish with just a handful of leaves.

Wild Garlic: Rockstar Of The Forest

Wild Garlic also has a name for itself on social media. Its lush green leaves and delicate white flowers are Instagram-worthy, making it the perfect backdrop for whimsical #cottagecore posts of countryside scenes and peasant dresses with eyelet lace. It’s straightforward to identify, but there are a few simple tricks to be 100% sure. It’s also important to keep an eye out for other plants that grow alongside wild garlic clusters, look similar in colour and leaf shape – and should not be consumed (see below).

How To ID… Wild Garlic

The leaf is bright green and it is soft, flat and spear-shaped. The leaves grow in clusters, forming lush patches that carpet woodland floors or alongside streams. You can usually smell the plant before you see it! ID tip: the leaf lets off a strong garlic odour when crushed. The leaves themselves are better picked before the plant flowers. Once the plant is flowering, all the plant’s love and gusto goes into making the white flower and the leaves lose their flavour. The white flowers also add to its distinctive appearance, as they grow in a single spike, with a disco ball of star-shaped petals at the top, similar to other Allium species.

Tastes like… Garlic!

What does this rockstar plant taste of? The clue may be in its name… Imagine the bold, punchy taste of garlic, dial it up to eleven and add hints of onion and leek. That’s wild garlic – a flavour explosion that’ll have your taste buds dancing the tongue tango. 

Not To Be Confused With… Lords & Ladies

There are two plants to be wary of when picking Wild Garlic: Lords & Ladies and Lily of the Valley. Although they are easy to tell apart once flowering, the leaves are harder to distinguish and they both grow in close proximity. The Lords and Ladies leaf is also bright green, but a distinct difference is its lobes at the base of the leaf, unlike Wild Garlic. It’s also not as smooth and waxy as Wild Garlic. The toxic Lily of the Valley has a similar leaf shape, but it can have two or more leaves on its stem split further up the plant, not just at the base. The safest way to tell them apart is by smell. Unless it honks of garlic when crushed, leave it be! As they grow in such close proximity, it’s important to pick each garlic leaf one at a time.