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How to use wild garlic

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How to use wild garlic

How to use wild garlic

Make the most of wild garlic with our expert foraging tips and recipe suggestions. This punchy springtime herb can be used in pestos, garlic butter, soups, marinades and more.

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) has become one of the food joys of spring. It grows in abundance, it’s easy to identify, the whole plant is edible, and it can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Barney Desmazery has everything you need to know about foraging for this seasonal green along with the best wild garlic recipes.

Please note that as with all foraging, you’ll need the landowners permission and should only ever pick as much as you need. It is illegal to dig the wild garlic plant up by its roots, however much of it there is, on common ground.

What is wild garlic?

  • Wild garlic is a leafy green bulbous perennial native to Britain that starts to appear as small shoots in February, flowers in April and goes to seed around June. As the name suggests, it’s the wild cousin to the garlic you use in the kitchen.
  • Also commonly known as ramsons, but not to be confused the other edible wild allium, three-cornered leek, wild garlic grows prolifically in damp woodland.
  • Until recently it’s been the secret of foragers and seasonally focused chefs, but in the last few years it’s become a must-eat ingredient in the spring food calendar, popping up at farmers markets and being picked commercially. It’s one of a foragers favourite finds – it grows in abundance and signifies the start of spring.


When is wild garlic in season?

  • Peak season: Mid-February to April.
  • Wild garlic has one of the longest seasons of the wild plants. The small, tender micro-herb like shoots start to appear from mid-February, with the plant reaching its full, leafy glory in late March.
  • Around mid-April, the beautiful salad-enhancing star-shaped flowers blossom. Then, the flowers go to seed and the leaves become bitter, but the seeds can also be eaten raw or pickled like a caper.

Where does wild garlic grow?

Wild garlic thrives on the edge of damp woodland, by shaded streams and brooks. In some places it grows in astonishing amounts – it’s not uncommon to find whole gullies carpeted in its green leaves.

What does wild garlic look like?

In full bloom, the plant has deep green, wide, pointed leaves, a single flowering stem that produces a star-shaped white flower a bit like a snow-drop.

What does wild garlic smell like?

This is by far the easiest way for identifying wild garlic. It has an unmistakable mild garlic, chive-like onion smell.

What part of wild garlic is edible?

One of the joys of wild garlic is that the whole plant is edible raw and cooked:

  • The subterranean bulb (which you need permission to pull) can be treated as a small onion or calçot
  • The early shoots work as salad leaves or scatter herbs
  • The bigger leaves can be chopped and eaten raw or cooked like spinach
  • The stem can be used like a thick chive
  • The flowers make a beautiful garnish
  • The seed pods add a pop to a salad or can be pickled like a caper to use later in the year.

What’s the best way to pick wild garlic?

To pick wild garlic you need nothing more than a pair of shoes you don’t mind getting muddy, some scissors and a basket or bag. If you have permission to dig the edible bulbs, a gardening trowel will help. ‘Picking’ wild garlic is as simple as snipping the leaves or whole plant with a pair of scissors.

How to forage wild garlic safely and responsibly

There are a couple of poisonous plants that could be mistaken for it, Lords and Ladies being the most common, but the identification is in the scent – none of the other plants will smell of garlic. With all foraging, Good Food recommend you go with someone with experience and knowledge and refer to recognised foraging books as well as websites. Never eat anything you are unsure of, if in doubt leave it out, always seek the landowners permission and only ever pick as much as you need.

Where to buy wild garlic

If you are unable to forage for wild garlic, then you can normally find it in most farmers markets throughout spring. It can also be ordered from veg box suppliers such as Riverfood.


What’s the best way to store wild garlic?

  • Picked wild garlic is best kept somewhere cool and dark, a plastic bag in the salad draw of your fridge is ideal.
  • Picked wild garlic leaves will keep for 3-4 days like this but the flowers are best used on the day they are picked.

How to cook wild garlic 

  • Make sure you give wild garlic a good wash in cold water before eating, it’s wild so as well as mud this will rid you of any creepy crawly surprises in your dinner.
  • Younger leaves, flowers and seed pods can simply be added to salads and the flower stems can be used like chives.
  • Bigger leaves can be wilted like spinach or blitzed into oil, pesto or dressing. What grows together, goes together and wild garlic has an affinity with other spring ingredients like lamb, trout, salmon and new potatoes. 

Refernce: BBC Good Food: Barney Desmazery

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