Can you eat wild garlic?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat wild garlic?” and discuss how to store it?

Can you eat wild garlic?

Yes, you can eat wild garlic. Wild garlic has become a springtime delicacy for many people. You can eat the entire plant raw or cooked, and it’s simple to recognize when you see it.

Garlic (Allium sativum L., Amaryllidaceae) likely originated in Central Asia. The plant has been used as a flavoring agent and a traditional medicine since antiquity, and is now cultivated worldwide. Allium vineale L. (wild garlic, crow garlic) is native to Great Britain, most of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The plant has been introduced to North America, Australia, and New Zealand (2).

Garlic is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran, and has long been a common seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use. It was known to ancient Egyptians, and has been used both as a food flavoring and as a traditional medicine. China produces some 80% of the world supply of garlic (1).

Exactly what is wild sage?

You may think of it as the wild relative of the garlic you use in the kitchen. Wild garlic is a bulbous perennial herb endemic to the United Kingdom that emerges as short shoots in February, blooms in April, and sets seed in June. 

The Herbal plant under the names of “wild sage,” “eupatorium” and “lilifagus,” may correspond with Salvia fruticosa, a common wild and cultivated plant near Salerno. This plant is extremely popular among the Palestinians of Israel in the treatment of heart disorders. For colds, coughs and influenza it is used in Antalya, Turkey, and in North Africa the infusion of leaves and young shoots of S. fruticosa is employed for similar purposes as it is among the Arabs of Israel (5).

However, it should not be mistaken for the other edible wild allium, three-cornered leek, as wild garlic is also known as ramsons. 

Farmers’ markets and commercial harvesting have brought this once-exclusive item to the attention of home cooks and chefs with an eye toward seasonal ingredients, but now it’s a must-have for the spring menu. When it comes to foraging, nettle is one of the most sought-after treasures.

Allium vineale has been used as a substitute for A. sativum in cooking; the bulb is used as a flavoring agent and the leaves as an addition to salad. Cherokee Native Americans used both A. vineale and A. sativum as carminatives, diuretics, and expectorants (2).

How long does it take for wild garlic to bloom?

Garlic in the wild has one of the most extended growing seasons. Small, fragile micro herb-like growth appears from February through March; the plant reaches its full leafy splendor in late March. Shoots emerge throughout the fall, and reproductive stalks typically appear in mid spring.  Plants require a cold treatment to induce stalk formation. Wild garlic is best managed by late fall to early spring tillage. The optimal time for tillage is when two foliage leaves are well formed (do not count the short sprout leaf, which quickly withers) (3).

The lovely salad-enhancing star-shaped blossoms bloom around mid-April. Later, the blossoms set seed and become bitter, although the seeds may still be eaten raw or pickled like capers, depending on the preparation.

What is the habitat of wild garlic?

Wild garlic may be found growing along the banks of shady creeks and rivers. It may cover whole valleys in its green leaves in certain areas, like in the mountains.

What is the appearance of wild garlic?

When it comes to wild garlic, it’s not about what it looks like, but rather what it smells like mild garlic, chive-like onion aroma. There is a solitary blooming stalk that produces a star-shaped white flower similar to a snowdrop when the plant is in full bloom.

What is the edible portion of wild garlic?

Wild garlic is one of the best things about it since you can eat it both raw and cooked. There are many uses for the underground bulb, which must be harvested with the permission of the landowner, including salad leaves, scatter herbs, chopped leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds, which can be preserved like capers for later use in salads. 

The bulbs are occasionally used to flavor cooked dishes, but most people consider the flavor much inferior to that of domestic garlic. The bulbs do, however, contain substantial concentrations of the same beneficial antioxidants found in domestic garlic. Livestock readily eat wild garlic leaves and shoots, but consumption of fresh material can taint milk and meat.  The flavor persists through the silage making process, but is not present in dried hay (3).

The flowers and seeds can also be used as a garnish and the seed pods can be pickled like a caper for later in the season.

Do you know how to collect wild garlic the best way?

Just a pair of shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy and a pair of scissors are all you need to collect wild garlic. With permission to dig up the edible bulbs, use a gardening shovel. With a pair of scissors, “picking” wild garlic is as easy as snipping the leaves or whole plant.

Below-ground bulbs are egg shaped, have papery coverings and can also develop in segments from the main bulb. A fibrous root system emerges from bulb bases. Stalks are unbranched, round, smooth, waxy, leafless, and solid-cored; the top of the stem gives rise to either aerial bulblets or flowers that emerge from a sheathed globular structure. Aerial bulblets are small and teardrop shaped, with a thin, green leaf emerging from the top (3).

How to safely and responsibly gather wild garlic

Lords and Ladies, the most frequent deadly plant, might be confused for it, but the identification is in the perfume – none of the other plants will have the garlic scent. Good Food recommends that anybody interested in foraging does it under the guidance of someone with relevant expertise and training and that they consult reputable foraging publications and websites. 

Ask the landowner for permission before picking anything and only take what you need. Never consume anything you’re not sure about.

How should wild garlic be stored?

A plastic bag in the salad drawer of your fridge is the perfect place to store freshly harvested wild garlic. Wild garlic leaves may be stored in this manner for 3-4 days, but the blooms should be utilized on the same day that they are harvested. In general, herbs can be stored for up to 10 days in the refrigerator (4).

How should wild garlic be prepared?

If you’re going to consume wild garlic, wash it well in cold water before eating it to get rid of any creepy crawlies that could be hiding in there. Salads benefit greatly from the addition of the young leaves, flowers, and seed pods, while the flower stalks may be used in place of chives. It is possible to wilt larger leaves like spinach or blitz them for use in sauces such as pesto or oil-based salad dressings. 

Wild garlic pairs well with lamb, trout, salmon, and fresh potatoes, all of which are in season now.

Is it against the law in the UK to collect wild garlic?

No, not if you’re just collecting the portions that are visible. See Foraging and the Law, which I wrote. Uprooting wild garlic is forbidden unless you have the consent of the landowner.

What deadly plants could be confused with wild garlic?

Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum) or Lily of the Valley’s early leaf development might be misinterpreted (Convallaria majalis). Crushing the leaves, on the other hand, is the only way to be certain. Wild garlic has an onion-like aroma. Lady of the Lake and Lord of the Manor don’t do this.

A. maculatum is a common woodland plant species widespread across the temperate climate of the Northern Hemisphere. Although the leaves of A. maculatum are used for food preparation in some cultures, allergic reactions are possible after consumption of any part of the plant. The fruits of this plant, which contain oxalates and saponins, are especially poisonous. C. malajis, or Lily of the valley, is a poisonous plant widespread in the temperate climate of the Northern Hemisphere. The plant contains cardiac glycosides whose toxicity is attributed to the inhibition of the enzyme Na+/K+-ATPase. Intoxication can cause sinus tachycardia, heart block, fibrillation, and eventually cardiac arrest (6).

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Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat wild garlic?” and we discussed how to store it?

Reference

  1. Ejeta, Balisa Mosisa, Yohanis Sitotaw, and Seid Imamu. Wondwosen, Meskerem Adamu, et al. Review on the Medicinal uses and Safety Profiles of Allium Sativum Linn (Garlic). J Med Healthcare, 2022, 4, 2-3.
  2. Satyal, Prabodh, et al. The Chemical Compositions of the Volatile Oils of Garlic (Allium sativum) and Wild Garlic (Allium vineale). Appl Essent Oils Food Sys, 2018, 16.  
  3. Wild Garlic. Cornell University.
  4. FoodKeeper. United States Department of Agriculture.
  5. Rivera, Diego, Conchita Obon, and Francisco Cano. The botany, history and traditional uses of three-lobed sage (Salvia fruticosa Miller)(Labiatae). Econ Botan, 1994, 48, 190-195.
  6. Ivanović, Stefan, et al. Plant Metabolomics as a Tool for Detecting Adulterants in Edible Plant: A Case Study of Allium ursinum. Metabolites, 2022, 12, 849.

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