Allium ursinum, known as wild garlic or bear's garlic (due to the bear's taste for the bulbs and its habit of digging up the ground to get at them) is one of my favorite edible spring herbs. A wild relative of onion, it is native to Europe and Asia, where it grows in moist woodland, preferring slightly acidic conditions.
The first evidence of the human use of A. ursinum comes from the Mesolithic settlement of Barkær (Denmark), where an impression of a leaf has been found. In the Swiss Neolithic settlement of Thayngen-Weier (Cortaillod culture), a high concentration of pollen from A. ursinum was found in the settlement layer, interpreted by some as evidence for the use of A. ursinum as fodder.
Health Benefits of Wild Garlic
A.ursinum has the same benefits as regular garlic (anti fungal, antibacterial, antioxidant) but is easier on the digestion when eaten raw.
How To Recognize Wild Garlic
Although wild garlic is easily recognizable by his garlicky smell, take care, as some plants can be mistaken for wild garlic. It is the case of Lily of the valley, Colchicum autumnale , Arum maculatum and Veratrum viride, all of which are poisonous. Wild Garlic's leaves are convex with a single main vein, emerge individually and are bright green.
How To Use Wild Garlic
Leaves and flowers are edible and can be used in numerous ways. I like to sprinkle them on salads, use it in soup, sourdough bread or in butter.
Wild Garlic Butter
Soften the butter and mix with chopped wild garlic. I like to spread the butter on a piece of sourdough bread, on baked salmon or baked sweet potatoes.
The season of wild garlic is very short (10 to 12 weeks) so make sure you head out to the forest to find some!