Wild garlic is one of the heralds of spring. Tasty, versatile and easy to identify – this guide will help you to find some near you!
It finally feels like spring is here! And with that comes the unmistakable savoury waft of garlic in the air.
If you’re new to foraging then this tasty leaf is a great introduction to wild food. And if you’re an old hand then you’ll know the excitement of that first heady hint of garlic!
where can you find wild garlic?
Wild garlic, also known as ramsons, is prolific at this time of year. One of the earliest plants to start shooting up through the ground after winter, wild garlic is in season from March onwards, with the white flowers appearing between May and June. Once the flowers open the leaves can become a little tough and bitter, so it’s best to start to your foraging earlier in the season.
It starts popping up in veg boxes and farmers markets in spring, but if you live near a woodland, park or hedgerow in the UK there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find some growing wild. And it’s so much more fun (and free) to gather it yourself!
how to identify wild garlic
Wild garlic is great for beginner foragers. I am far from experienced at foraging, but wild garlic is easy to identify so I feel confident picking it.
The leaves are long, broad and oval shaped with a pointed tip. They range from 5-15cm long and 3-6cm wide.
The giveaway is the smell – you’ll often smell it before you see it. Keep following your nose and you’ll probably find wild garlic in a shady patch. It likes damp soil and shade, and can often be found near streams, riverbanks or in shady spots of woodland.
There are a few plants that can be easily mistaken for wild garlic, so do be cautious. If you’re in any doubt, gently crush a leaf. A garlic aroma means that it’s safe to pick – otherwise leave it be.
how to harvest wild garlic
Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the leaves close to the ground. It can grow close to its poisonous lookalikes, so I like to harvest each leaf individually so that I know I’m picking the right plants.
The flower buds and flowers are also edible, and are lovely pickled or sprinkled over flowers. They are also a favourite food for bees and butterflies, so don’t overpick!
Make sure you practice responsible foraging and only take what you need. Leaving most of the plant of the plant intact helps it to grow again next season, and also provides valuable food and habitat for wildlife.
why should you forage your own?
There’s a magic in foraging food.
In a world that feels increasingly detached, foraging can link us to our local landscape and connect us more deeply to the seasonal rhythms.
But the food is just part of it.
On the way into the woods to harvest our first few handfuls this year we caught a glimpse of two deer, just off the path. And standing amongst a swathe of wild garlic we saw a red kite circling low above our heads. There’s nothing quite like having those memories and experiences linked to the food you’re eating.
health benefits of wild garlic
Wild garlic can supposedly reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure. Much like it’s garlic cousin it’s also reported to have antibacterial and antiseptic qualities.
what to make with wild garlic
Wild garlic packs a pretty powerful punch when eaten raw!
If you prefer a more subtle flavour you can try cooking it, either in a soup or wilting it down like spinach.
Or try some of these recipes
Now go forth and forage! It really is a fun and rewarding way to spend a few hours. Let me know you get on!