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Sunday, November 6, 2011


I grew up in a place where wild garlic proliferated, and hated the smell when the plant was in flower. I was amazed that such pretty flowers could smell so awful. I’m not sure that the acrid smell is like that of garlic, but it is strong and hangs heavily in the air around the growing plants.
  Apparently it is called bear’s garlic in Latin because the European brown bears were partial to the bulbs and would gorge on them when they awoke from their hibernation period. It is a native to Western and Central Europe and parts of Asia. In Germany there has been a movement to use edible wild plants in haute cuisine and chefs have been putting bear’s garlic in their dishes, which seems a bit of a waste, as, like fresh coriander leaves, the broad chopped leaves are best added to piping hot food and stirred into it just before serving. Cooking it like spinach or leeks rather diminishes the flavour. You can add the leaves to soups as you would sorrel, but again you lose most of the flavour, but do have a smelly kitchen.
  All parts of the plant are edible and our ancestors seemed to have utilized it as remains of pollen have been found in Neolithic settlements in Sweden and in Mesolithic ones in Denmark. It is a member of the onion family and closely related to chives.
  The plant leaves are high in vitamin C and also contain vitamins A and the minerals, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium and traces of selenium. The leaves also contain adenosine which is believed to play a key role in regulating high blood pressure and tachycardia.
   Throughout history the plant has been used as a spring tonic to cleanse the blood and boost the immune system, as it is believed to work to boost the functioning of the internal organs. It was named “1992 Medicinal Plant of the Year” by the Association for the Protection and Research on European Medicinal Plants, and there have been some clinical trials carried out on this plant along with true garlic Allium sativa. Bear’s garlic comes out top in terms of sulphur content although most of the relevant literature says that it has a weaker medicinal action than Allium sativa.
  If you go foraging for this plant simply follow your nose. There have been reports of people suffering the effects of poisoning from confusing the leaves of Bear’s garlic with those of lily-of-the-valley, or cuckoo pint and even dying after eating too many leaves of the autumn crocus, or meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale). The smell of garlic will come from this plant and doesn’t from the others, which don’t really bear it too much resemblance, so if you follow your nose on this you shouldn’t encounter a problem.
  If you use the bulb it is best harvested between the months of July and December or early January, although if you start to dig up bulbs you are depleting the wild stock of plants. It’s best to just stick to eating the leaves. The plant has antifungal and antiviral actions and has been used in the past as household disinfectant - the juice from the plant is good for this, although you still have to deal with the odour. The plant itself is useful in gardens as it repels insects and burrowing moles.
  The juice is said to be good for weight loss, and its mild action can be a counter irritant if applied to places where you have rheumatic pains. It increases the blood circulation locally and does ease pain in arthritic joints.
  The plant has been used for asthma and emphysema sufferers as well as in cases of bronchitis, and is said to be effective.
  The name ramson which is the plant’s English name gives rise to some confusion as there is a plant called rampion, which is a member of the Campanulaceae family, and not a relation to this one, and in the US in the Appalachians there is a plant locally called ramps which is a relative of this, but they are not the same plant. The US plant is a wild onion and its botanical name is Allium tricoccum.


  1. i would like to know where i can buy the seeds for this plant. i live in bc, canada but i am willing to buy it outside of canada. thanks so much.

  2. If you can't find it in Canada, try Farnell Farm UK online.They harvest the seeds by hand and sell them in packs.


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