Monday, 30 March 2015

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum)

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is a low growing perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Alliaceae family. It is also known by many other common names including ramsons, ramps, buckrams, hog's garlic, gypsy onion, wood garlic and broad leaved garlic, it is found in Europe, Asia, the Caucasus and Siberia. It is a woodland bulb often found in damp shady places, under hedges or on banks. Under the right conditions it will spread prolifically. Leaves are hairless and can grow up to 0.5 metres in length. Flowers are a delicate star shaped and white in colour.

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) leaves are available now in the British Isles.


Growing methods

Propagation can be carried out using bulbs or seeds which can be purchased online. Seeds can be sown in early spring or early autumn. Fresh are best and they germinate readily. Sow in a shady area in situ such as under a deciduous shrub or tree using up to 200 seeds per square metre. Alternatively sow in pots under cover. Plants prefers moist slightly acid soils but will grow elsewhere. Keep soil moist and mulch during the summer months to help keep in moisture and prevent grass or other plants from intruding.

Once the plant is mature it can be propagated by division. Wait until late summer when the foliage has died down. Dig up clumps and gently prise them apart. Plant bulbs in their final position making sure the root end is facing down. Water well and keep soil moist but not waterlogged. Bulbs take 3 years to develop and are very small in size. Once wild garlic is established, it can spreadand become invasive. It is unlikely to require further propagation. It will grow well in pots or other containers.

In the wild this plant is mainly spread by seed.

The delicate white star shaped flowers of wild garlic.


Other uses

Wild garlic can be used in much the same way as garlic and has similar health benefits. It has a long history of traditional medicinal use. It is popular as a spring tonic. The juice of the plant has been used as a general household disinfectant and insect repellent. If grown alongside legumes, it inhibits the growth. However, it grows well with most other plants.

Raw edible parts

All parts of the plant can be eaten although the leaves and stems are probably one of the best parts and are available from February to June. Bulbs are available all year round. The bulbs are quite small but often produced in great quantity. Lift in early summer and they can be stored for several months. Use these from July through to January when the plant is dormant. The delicate white flowers and the seeds are also edible raw. The flowers are stronger in flavour than the leaves. Flower buds can be used to make substitute capers. Leaves can be added as greens to salads, used as a wrap or made into a pesto. The whole plant can be made into soups, sauces or fermented.

Issues

Wild garlic can be mistaken for Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) or Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum) which are poisonous. However, it does have a very distinctive garlic odour which aids identification.