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Wild garlic, bear’s garlic: a healing herb with a tasty bite

Wild garlic, bear's garlic

Wild garlic is a flavorful and medicinal plant packed with benefits

Key Wild garlic facts:

Latin name: Allium ursinum
Common name: bear’s garlic, wild ~
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Type: perennial aromatic and medicinal

Height: 16 inches (40 cm)
Exposure: partial shade, shaded
Soil: heavy, humus-rich, and cool

Planting: July  –  Harvest: end of July to September

Wild garlic, a perennial plant from Europe and Asia, thrives wild in woodlands. Easy to grow and low maintenance, people cultivate Allium ursinum for its flavorful leaves that elevate many dishes.

A great source of nectar, this condiment plant showcases beautiful clusters of white flowers. Detoxifying and antiseptic, wild garlic offers medicinal benefits similar to regular garlic.

A note of caution: Don’t confuse wild garlic with lily of the valley. Their foliage looks alike, but while Allium ursinum leaves are edible, lily of the valley leaves are highly toxic!

Planting bear’s garlic bulbs

Planting wild garlicPlanting distance: about 8 inches (20 cm).

Bulbs of bear’s garlic are best planted in fall or spring, in loose soil that’s been well-worked and enriched with compost. Plant bulbs at a depth of 2 inches (5 cm), spacing them about 8 inches (20 cm) apart in all directions.

Then, sprinkle water lightly over them. Once more, make sure your soil stays nicely moist during the first growing season.

Sowing wild garlic

Seeding wild garlic, a natural perennial, can be a tad tricky. To simulate winter, put your seeds in the fridge for about a month to boost germination.

  • After that, soak the seeds in lukewarm water overnight before seeding.

Directly sow in July in a partially shaded spot in compost-enriched soil. Sprinkle the seeds atop a wet layer of seeding compost and barely cover the seeds. Typically, germination takes 3 to 4 weeks.

Water the seeds gently once a week through September. If it’s exceptionally dry, keep the soil moist. Thin the Allium ursinum plants in their second growing year. Space them to about 8 inches (20 cm) in all directions.

Care and upkeep

Bear’s garlic is a shade-loving forest plant, preferring heavy, organic-rich soils that are consistently moist.

This hardy plant does great both in garden soil and containers.

Wild garlic careCaring for bear’s garlic is easy. Just give it some regular, light watering during dry spells.

Add mulch around your Allium ursinum plants in summer to keep that soil moisture level up.

  • Don’t hoe around them – you might hurt their bulbs.

💡 Fun fact: bear’s garlic can be quite an invader. To control its spread, snip off spent flowers to keep its spreading in check.

Diseases and pests

Bear’s garlic doesn’t catch diseases easily. Its main worry, as for other allium plants, is the onion fly.

Harvesting and storage

When and how to harvest bear's garlicBegin your wild garlic harvest a year after planting. Harvest leaves and flowers as you need, ensuring you leave the root bulb intact.

Consume them soon after harvesting because wild garlic doesn’t store well for long. You can, however, dry leaves or freeze them for longer storage. This might dull their flavor a tad.

Smart tip: Harvest leaves before they flower to relish a more intense aroma.

Cooking with wild garlic, anyone?

Cooking with bear's garlicWild garlic leaves pack a vitamin punch and have a feel pretty similar to lettuce.

Enjoy leaves, stems, and flower buds raw in salads, or cooked in sauces like pesto, soups, or as a side with your veggie, fish, and poultry dishes.

Just remember, cooking dampens its strong aroma a bit.

Images: Pixabay: Ilona, Jonathan Sautter, LMoonlight, Frauke Riether, Sabrina St.
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