Bärlauch: ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaf garlic, bear garlic, or bear leek
This time of year, the days are discernibly longer and in the evening, the blackbird sings alone on the rooftop. I watch the plants grow day for day, like my patch of Bärlauch. I stop by every morning to see how it’s coming along. This is going to be a good year for Bärlauch.
Native to Europe and Asia, ramsons or wild garlic (Allium ursinum) was used by the Romans as a healing herb. The sulfurous substance Alliin oxidizes when the leaves are chopped, forming the medically effective Allicin, a naturally occurring antibiotic.
The leaves need to be picked before they get too old. Once the plants bloom, the leaves lose some of their healing properties. But we have a few weeks until that happens. Actually, in Germany, wild garlic is on the Red List of endangered plants and it’s not really legal to pick it if you come across it alongside a creek. The leaves also bear a strong resemblance to the poisonous Lily of the Valley, so please be careful if you are out on a nature hike.
|Lily of the Valley
Last year, stores were carrying fresh wild garlic. It’s hard to cultivate and it is expensive. In the garden, you need an undisturbed area, shady and damp, where leaves have settled over the winter and no overzealous gardener has been hacking with their hoe. No problem, we have lots of ‘undisturbed areas.’
The saying goes that bears come out of their winter hibernation and search for wild garlic. They eat the leaves and dig for the roots. After a long winter sleep, wild garlic regulates digestion, is used to counter flatulence, stimulates appetite, and sinks the blood pressure. Traditionally, wild garlic was used to treat intestinal parasites: worms.
What do I do with it, then? The leaves are chopped and used fresh, like you would use chives. I’ve read that the leaves can be frozen, but I haven’t tried that. In order to preserve them, I chop the leaves and add and ample amount of cold extracted olive oil and some salt. That keeps in the refrigerator for quite some time, usually until I can’t bear to eat anymore of it. We top noodles with this like pesto, or mix it with cream cheese for a lovely dip with some roasted red pepper. A tablespoon can be stirred into a beef stew or vegetable soup. Or smeared on the bread of your ham sandwich. (Only if you don’t have to work the next day.)
I’m all ears (or eyes). Share your favorite recipe with me!