Considered a noxious weed by most, wild garlic is one of the most prolific and easily identifiable wild edibles. One of the first weeds to pop up every Spring, wild garlic grows and is edible all year long. I’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know to find, harvest and eat this nutritious, and delicious wild edible!
Identifying Wild Garlic
Wild garlic goes by many names. When I was a child, I would call them onion grass. Their scientific name Allium vineale is also called field garlic, crow garlic, or stag’s garlic. Wild garlic is often confused with wild onions (Allium canadense) and both can be prepared in the same way, so I don’t worry too much with identification. Wild garlic leaves are hollow while wild onion leaves are solid.
Cousins to wild garlic and wild onion are ramps (Allium tricoccum) and ramsons (Allium ursinum). All can be prepared and eaten the same way. The only dangerous look-alikes don’t smell like onions or garlic when crushed so as long as what you harvest smells like onions or garlic, you’re safe.
For more information on how to properly identify and ethically harvest foraged plants, I highly recommend Herbal Academy’s Botany and Wildcrafting Course.
History of Wild Garlic Recipes
Native to Europe and parts of Africa and the Middle East, they were one of the first invasive immigrants to come over to the New World. In fact, in 1672, Father Jacques Marquette and fur trader Louis Joliet explored Canada and down the Mississippi river, looking for a route to the Pacific Ocean.
It has been said that on their voyage of more than 2,500 miles they ate mainly wild garlic, onions and ramps.
Even before that, however, according to NatureGate, wild garlic can be found in Finland, but usually only around Iron Age dwelling sites. In so much that they have found Iron Age settlements by finding wild garlic. Leading one to believe that Iron Age people used it and propagated it themselves.
Native Americans would often scramble wild garlic with eggs, and towns in rural southern America would host wild garlic lunches as community fundraisers. After a long winter, the bright bunches of green onion grass and socializing with neighbors were welcome changes from the cold, dreary weather.
Check out my wild garlic and scrambled eggs recipe for example.
In addition to scrambled with eggs, the Indians use it in soup and have always accounted it a valuable wild food.
In the Foxfire book, they give recipes for pickled, fried, and sauteed wild garlic.
Nutritionally, both wild garlic and wild onions contain Vitamin C, Vitamin A and potassium and are similarly used medicinally like onions and garlic are. (Check out my post on Medicinal Uses for Garlic).
Medicinal Benefits of Wild Garlic/Onions
An old English proverbs says “Eat leeks in Lide [March] and ramsins [ramps] in May and all the year after physitians may play.”
Another ancient saying is “nine diseases shiver before the garlic.” In County Sligo, Ireland people would carry around a bulb of garlic or wild garlic in their pocket to ward off illnesses as recently as the 1918 influenza epidemic.
Garlic, and it’s wild cousin, wild garlic have been used in Britian externally for centuries to cure everything from a toothache, rheumatism, to mumps and sores. Internally, however, when garlic is chewed and digested it releases a substance called allicin, which is works against certain micro-organisms. This seems to lead some credence to the idea of wild garlic as a blood purifier and tonic.
In the Foxfire book 2, they explain how the old timey Appalachian people viewed Spring greens: “after a long winter, spring was the time to refresh the spirit and tone up the system with a tonic.”
However you prepare them, definitely give this fragrant and delicious wild edible a try!