Wild garlic, otherwise known as ramsons, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek or bear's garlic is an early spring favourite and commonly found in Europe's great outdoors.
The Latin name for the garlic, 'allium ursinum,' comes from brown bears' love of this tasty herb. The season coincides with the end of the bears' hibernation when they love to treat themselves to some of these tiny, tasty wild plants.
Wild garlic: what is it?
Garlic is a wild plant that usually grows in undergrowth, damp plots, or near watercourses. The first leaves appear between February and March, the buds in April and the white flowers from April to June.
A distant relative of chives, wild garlic leaves boast distinct piquantness and mild sweetness akin to leeks and spring onions.
If you can't find wild garlic, chives are a good substitute.
Where can you find wild garlic?
Wild garlic is a prolific grower in temperate lowlands and can easily be found when foraging on a woodland walk.
Wild garlic can be recognised by the six-petal white flowers that form a kind of umbrella. If in any doubt, leave the harvesting to the experts, as wild garlic can be confused with the poisonous lily of the valley.
Here's how to find the best, tender wild garlic, from the bulb to the leaves, and how to leave the site intact ready for a future harvest.
What does wild garlic taste like?
Wild garlic tastes very much like the supermarket garlic you’re used to, but has a slightly lighter and less pungent flavour. The flavour of the leaves also tends to mellow as you cook them.
How to store wild garlic
Wild garlic must be stored properly to stop it from drying out. It can be kept for up to a week bulb-side down in a glass of water in the refrigerator. The leaves can also be frozen. Find out more about how to preserve garlic, and what not to do.
How to cook with wild garlic
Wild garlic leaves are the most distinct and versatile part of the plant and often preferred to the bulb. Simply roll up the leaves and slice them into thin ribbons and add at the end of cooking, or scatter on just before serving. The edible flowers also make a pretty addition to garnishing dishes.
Substitute wild garlic for basil and blend it into pesto, to season your pâtées, or sauces.
Try whizzing wild garlic into salad dressings, or blending it into your hummus to give it that extra kick.
Wild garlic is also delicious in baking, added to quiches, savoury pies or bread. You can even try adding garlic to a potato gratin, during stir fry cooking or any other stovetop pan cooking.
Here are some quick recipe ideas for your fresh harvest of wild garlic from the team at the Riverford Recipe channel.
Wild garlic recipes
Wild garlic butter recipe
Great British Chefs show just how easy it is to harness the aromatic flavour of spring in butter. Ideal for basting fish and meat or serving melted over vegetables.
Wild garlic and watercress soup
Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall gets excited about wild garlic at the River Cottage which he blends into a fresh, creamy and pungent wild garlic and watercress soup.
Wild garlic pesto
Back at the River Cottage again, Grace whizzes up a punchy wild garlic pesto.
Flat bread with wild garlic dressing
Jamie Oliver gets back in touch with nature, sat cross-legged by the fire showing how to make flat breads on the barbecue with a wild garlic dressing.
Wild garlic scones
Finally, bake your wild garlic into delicious soft and fluffy savoury scones topped off with cheddar and wild garlic flowers. Best eaten slightly warm with cold butter.
Editor's note: updated 13.3.23