Wild garlic (Ramsons)

Wild garlic leaves (Allium ursinum)
Wild garlic spends most of the year buried underground as a bulb, only to emerge in early Spring. The leaves smell and taste of garlic and are quite versatile in the kitchen.

Table of Contents

Wild Garlic: Plant profile

Common names

Wild Garlic, Ramson, Bear’s Garlic, Broad-Leaved Garlic, Gypsy’s Onions, Wood Garlic, Buckrams, Stinking Jenny, Creamh

Botanical name

Allium ursinum

Plant family

Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis), Subfamily: Allioideae (Onion)


Native to Europe and Asia. Introduced in North America. Common in Ireland and the British Isles, except further north Scotland and the Channel Islands.

Where to find Wild Garlic

Ancient woodland and shaded hedgerows.

When to find Wild Garlic

Leaves late winter to early summer and flowers late spring to mid-summer.

How to identify Wild Garlic

Ramsons appear in clumps as they emerge from a bulb underground. The green leaves are long, lance-shaped (lanceolate) and have a single main vein, although younger leaves are narrower. The flowerhead emerges from a leafless stalk, encased within a green covering (spathe). Once, opened, the flowerhead becomes globe-shaped and formed by individual six-petalled white flowers. The seeds are contained in green triple-seed pods that eventually turn black. The whole plant smells heavily of garlic.

Wild garlic lookalikes

It resembles to Lilly of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) or Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale). However none of them, have the strong scent or garlicky taste of Ramsons.

Lords & Ladies (Arum maculatum) looks smiliar when young and grows in the same habitat, so it’s best to pay attention to what you pick.

Wild garlic leaves (Allium ursinum)

All about Wild Garlic

Wild garlic is one of the earliest greens to poke through the soil in spring. These glossy, pointed leaves are extremely prolific plants at this time of the year and are a gift to the wild gourmet.

Ramsons, as are also known, like damp soil and will grow in full shade, in the same sorts of places as bluebells grow, like shady banked verges of hedgerows and ancient woodland.

Beautiful star-shaped flowers signal the imminent end of the wild garlic season and shortly after the bloom droops away, the leaves start to wither and die back.

Medicinal properties of Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic has similar health benefits to regular garlic (Allium sativum).

Culinary uses and recipes with Wild Garlic

All parts are edible and taste of Garlic, but it is the leaves of the plant that are mainly collected. Although the smell is very pungent, the flavour of wild garlic is not as powerful as the conventional Garlic (Allium sativum).

You can use it in omelettes, soups, stir fries and a sort of pesto sauce, which is very popular amongst foragers. The leaves can be preserved by lacto fermentation and the flower buds can be pickled like capers.

Wild garlic flowers (Allium ursinum)

Safe foraging of Wild Garlic

Limited consumption is recommended, as it could be toxic in excessively large amounts.

Wild Garlic is poisonous to dogs.

Ecological importance of Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic is an ancient woodland indicator plant.

The plant flowers in early Spring and it’s an importnt source of food for insect pollinators. . Mammals such as badgers, squirrels and wild boars eat the bulbs.

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Alvaro Docio

Alvaro Docio

I am the person behind British Local Food. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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