Gifts of nature: Wild garlic/Ramson

Allium ursinum

The beautiful green carpet that produces a strong garlicky smell in the spring, protecting the woods from vampires. The plant prefers shade and we are sure to find it in forests that offer deep, moist, possibly limestone rich soil. Dear spring hikers, say goodbye to boring meals!

Ramson (3)
A green carpet of wild garlic

Even those who look down on nature’s healing powers are recipients of wild garlic’s healing properties – due to its sulphur containing strong-smelling etheric oils any hiker starts to breathe deeply while passing by and so the cleansing of the respiratory tract begins.

Benefits

Rich in vitamins C, B1, B2, Iron and Magnesium.

A great number of pharmacological studies confirm ramson’s potential for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular system diseases, infectious diseases and even cancer. It possesses anti-aggregation, antihypertensive properties and inhibits cholesterol synthesis. Just like its brother Allium sativum (garlic) it also has a wide-spectrum antimicrobial and antifungal activity and works against some parasites. Rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, ramson is an antioxidant which may prevent or delay cell damage and there are some indications that a component of ramson volatile oil inhibits proliferation of various human cancer cell lines, including breast, lung, colon cancers, lymphomas and neuroblastoma (read more here). To sum it up, flower power all the way.

Adverse reactions

Some people are allergic to it and those who should avoid garlic due to existing
anticoagulant therapy should also use its little brother with caution.

How I like it

I like to have a batch of fresh plant in the kitchen throughout the spring and add it to salads, dips, soups and as a pizza topping (just put whole leaves on a Margherita pizza and put it in the oven). In the other seasons, I use a wild garlic pesto or store it chopped up in olive oil.

I always pick herbs outside of the city, if possible not close to any busy roads. I look for medium sized leaves which have a strong scent and taste.

P.S. the beautiful flowers are edible too 😉

Wild garlic in olive oil

Ramson (5)
My not so secret ingredient

Rinse leaves and dry them before chopping.

Chopp leaves, add some salt and olive oil. It can be as thick as you like it.

Mix well, and put the mixture in a sterilised jar. Pop on a secure lid and set aside in a cool dark place.

That’s it. Once opened, store in a fridge.

You can play with this recipe and make it more complex – by adding parmesan cheese and chopped pine seeds you have a secret ingredient to any delicious pasta.

A deadly mistake

Autumn Crocus (colchicum autumnale), Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), White Hellebore (Veratrum album) have all been mistaken for wild garlic with severe, sometimes fatal consequences. I always keep in mind the following facts:

  • only wild garlic smells like garlic
  • wild garlic leaves all emanate singly at the base of the plant (Lily of the valley has two leaves growing together which split above the surface and Autumn crocus has erect, strap-shaped leaves)
  • when I am unsure, I leave it out!

 

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