Wild Garlic

We were out walking the other day, and I spotted some wild garlic. Honestly, I don’t know how I knew that is what it was, I just did. I walked over and tugged on a top. I guess I kind of expected the bulb to pull out. It did not. The top broke off. Determined stuff.

Whatever, it told me what I needed to know. I was right! A pleasant garlicky smell drifted up from the stems, and stayed on my hands.

I grabbed a clump, and started working on it, trying to see if I could get a bulb up intact. It is VERY deep rooted for a bulb, so it took a bit of working. The bulbs tend to be several inches down in the ground, all tightly clustered together, with this little bulb clinging to the end. I finally managed to separate out a full plant. I toted it home and planted it in one of my pots in my container gardens.

Then I got online and did an extensive search to make sure that I did indeed have what I thought I had. The verdict? If it smells like garlic, and has tube like leaves (just like chives), then it is indeed wild garlic.

It is considered a weed, and an unwelcome one almost everywhere that it grows. This is because it can cause problems for horses, and if milk cattle consume it, it will flavor the milk (in fact, butter made from such milk was considered a specialty item in Switzerland at one time). While this means you really have to watch for patches that have been treated with herbicide, it also means that when you find good patches, no one minds if you quietly remove them. It is fairly resistant to most herbicides, so it can survive even when it has been treated.

Healthy wild garlic looks different than struggling wild garlic, and if it has been sprayed, it will most likely survive, but be less healthy. Stuff that is struggling will look kind of like anemic chives, with the leaves splayed out more, and shorter. The healthy stuff has straight leaves that stand right up, and it grows in a tight very tall cluster, instead of a floppy and spread out bunch.

I snuck out and liberated some more the next morning, and scattered it through my pots. It helps deter some kinds of pests. Since it is a bulb, it transplants easily, even if it does not have much root on it when it is moved. It should be moved before it sets blossoms – it will form a classic teardrop shaped green bud at the top of the central stalk, which will then form a cluster of bulblets and kind of odd flowers. The bulblets will scatter around it when they mature, giving rise to the next generation of wild garlic. It appears that the bulblets may be more of a seed packet than a true bulb, because they drop to the ground and grow – but the new garlic bulbs form 2-3” underground. Some of the new ones also split, sometimes into two or even three bulbs.

I gave it some time to flush out, with a few good waterings, and some time to let any contaminants from the previous location work out. Not knowing what the neighbors might have applied to the growing location, this is a good idea (though it appears they did not use herbicides – other properties did have wild garlic, but it was wimbly and pathetic compared to the lush and upright clusters that I dug). You could do that by putting the bulbs in water for a few days if you did not want to grow them.

When I was ready to sample it, I chopped about 4” of two green spears very fine, and cooked them in butter with some sausage. I made a cheddar cheese sauce and mixed the sausage and garlic into it, and put that over some rotini. The flavor was gentle, and  a little more complex than domestic garlic. It was a very enjoyable flavor. I think complements cheese a bit better than domestic garlic, which can get a bit nauseating when combined with cheese, and I think it would do better with potatoes and perhaps eggs as well.

A little seems to go a long way, though the flavor was not overpowering, nor was it sharp or hot like garlic can be if you get too much. Had I used more, or if I had used the bulbs, the flavor may have been different than it was with just the greens. I had used a similar amount of domestic garlic greens in a similar dish, and the flavor was more concentrated. The wild stuff seems flavorful, but mellower.

The wild garlic does not seem to have a strong after-taste, and it doesn’t give one garlic breath as easily as domesticated garlic.

It does have some health promoting benefits that are a little different than those of domestic garlic. Similar in the kinds of things it helps, but different in how it helps.

This is something I definitely want to have on hand for use, and as a part of my herbal medicinal arsenal. Enough to deliberately cultivate it in a controlled environment. It may seem silly cultivating weeds, but some are so valuable that I find it worthwhile to assure consistent availability.

It was a nice find, and one that I am enjoying.

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