Wild garlic (Allium ursinum)

Wild garlic is one of the most recognised wild foods in our countryside with many of us making wild garlic pesto but this familiar plant has lots of other culinary uses.  During March and April wild garlic is at its peak with fresh new growth and starry white flowers.  All parts of this plant are edible including the flower buds, seed heads and seeds.  The small, slim bulbs are edible too but are too tiny to bother and under UK law it is illegal to dig up wild plants without permission of the landowner, so leave the bulbs in the ground and enjoy the above ground parts.

Key identification points:-

  • Mid green, strap-like leaves growing in a clump direct from the ground.  The leaf veins run like stripes up the leaf from the base to the tip - not side veins from the central vein.
  • White star like flowers in clusters on top of the flower stem, appearing between Apr-Jun
  • All parts smell of garlic
  • Usually found in damp woodland with mature colonies making huge green carpets on the woodland floor.
  • Common throughout most of the British Isles

Fresh wild garlic recipes

  • Wild garlic and nettle soup
  • Wild garlic pesto
  • Wild garlic flower heads in salads
  • Salsa verde with wild garlic
  • Wild garlic crusted salmon
There are loads of different recipes online and in foraging guide books.  Our favourite is the Wild garlic and nettle soup recipe from the BBC Good Food website:- https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/wild-garlic-nettle-soup

Preserving wild garlic

  • Pickled flower head and seed heads.
  • Fermented wild garlic leaves
  • Dried seeds
  • Frozen wild garlic leaves

Look-a-likes and problem neighbours

Dog's mercury

Wild garlic and dog's mercury often grow side by side in the woods (see the garlic leaves in the photo above) but unlike wild garlic, dog's mercury is toxic.  Although the leaves are very different with close inspection, it is very easy to pick dog's mercury leaves by accident.  Check your harvest for any leaves with serrated edges and don't eat those.

Wild arum, Cuckoo pint or Lords and Ladies

These plants also grow alongside wild garlic but the mature leaves look very different to wild garlic so are unlikely to catch out most careful foragers.  However, the young leaves look remarkably similar so beware.  Wild garlic leaves have veins that run from the base to the tip of the leaf without branching.  Wild arum leaves have branching veins and a vein that runs around the leaf like a boundary slightly set in from the edge. In the photo above the vein that runs like a border around the leaf is clearly visible.

Young Wild garlic leaf

The veins in wild garlic leaves run like stripes up the leaf from the base to the tip.