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Wild garlic makes lovers of natural, spicy cuisine cheer. The traditional spice and vegetable plant brings a zesty pop to the menu in spring with its garlic-like yet mild aroma. At the same time, when the wild garlic is in bloom, the rumor is circulating among hobby gardeners that flowering wild garlic is not suitable for consumption. Read here whether the leek plant is still edible when it blooms. Use our tips for the harvest season in beds and forests.
Carefree enjoyment from spring to summer
In mild locations, the aromatic scent of the leaves announces a wild garlic population from afar as early as February. This awakens the desire for spring-fresh dishes with the tender leaves, shoots and onions. When the white flowers are enthroned above the foliage in shapely umbels in April and May, you can continue harvesting without worry. All parts of wild garlic are edible during the entire growth and flowering period and are in no way poisonous.
These usage options are the most popular:
- fresh leaves, onions and shoots prepared in a salad, refined with salad dressing
- Blossoms, leaves, onions and roots as a flavorful ingredient in soups and stews
- crushed wild garlic leaves mixed with butter as a hearty spread
- Pickled buds as a substitute for capers
- processed into a spicy pesto with basil, olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan and some water
The appearance of the umbels of flowers still has a downside. As a result, the leaves take on an unpleasant, pungent taste. Furthermore, the previously soft, tender stems and bulblets become hard once flowering begins. For the perfect culinary delight, connoisseurs pick their stock of wild garlic before the plant blooms and conserve the harvest in the freezer.
Harvesting in the forest is associated with risks
You are on the safe side as long as you grow and harvest wild garlic in your own garden. On the other hand, if you are one of the enthusiastic collectors who roam the forests at harvest time in search of wild garlic stocks, you are exposed to several risks. The risk potential does not come from the plant itself, but rests in a possible confusion with poisonous forest plants and contact with pathogens. Below we take a closer look at the risks.
risk of confusion
Risk of confusion with autumn crocus, lily of the valley and auricle
Before a wild garlic plant blooms in April and May, there is a risk of life-threatening confusion with poisonous plants that prefer similar site conditions. The focus is on autumn crocus, lily of the valley and aurora, the consumption of which has been responsible for deaths several times in the past. The following overview provides the characteristics by which you can clearly identify a wild garlic plant and what the differences to the dangerous doubles are.
Characteristics of wild garlic
Identifying features of wild garlic:
- flat, lanceolate leaves 2 to 5 cm wide
- each a single leaf on a 10 to 20 mm long stem
- shiny green leaf upper side, dull, darker leaf underside
- triangular stems bear leaves and inflorescences
- globular, white umbels with up to 20 small individual flowers
- Single flowers each with 6 white petals
- garlic-like fragrance, particularly intense when the leaves are crushed
characteristics of other plants
Most important differences to autumn crocus, lily of the valley and auricula:
- always several leaves per stem
- no flowers in spring (autumn flowers)
lily of the valley
- always 2 leaves per stem
- unmistakable from the end of April
- white bell flowers
bar of aaron
- arrow shaped
- wide leaves
- club-shaped flowers from mid-April
The risk of confusion is thus limited to the leaves. In autumn crocus, lily of the valley and aurora, these are so poisonous that you should not limit yourself to a purely visual check. If in doubt, pick a leaf, rub it with your fingers and sniff it. Only wild garlic exudes the garlic-like aroma. However, there is a risk with this method that the odor will stick to your fingers and mislead you in further testing.
Fox tapeworm lurks in wild populations
Not only the risk of confusion with poisonous plants is omnipresent when wild garlic is harvested in the forest. In addition, collectors are at risk of transmitting a pathogen. We are talking about the eggs of the small fox tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis).
These are so toxic that they can cause dangerous liver disease in humans after consumption. The carrier is the red fox, in whose droppings there are large numbers of eggs. Fatally, the incubation period of the disease is up to 15 years and can only be cured with lengthy chemotherapy.
How to prevent infection:
- pick wild garlic leaves at knee height, as there is no contamination from faeces
- avoid typical spots for territory markings, such as hilltops and tree stumps
- clean the collected goods under running water
- briefly immerse the plant parts in water that is at least 70 degrees hot
Washing and freezing the harvest does not eliminate the risk of infection. Tapeworm eggs are only reliably killed at temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius.