For the last couple weeks, I’ve noticed a change when I go for walks: I experience this intense garlicky smell when I walk through certain areas in our local forest, and I know wild garlic season is finally back. Usually, the season runs from the beginning of March to the end of May and I always associate the smell with delicious dishes I can prepare with Bärlauch.
Wild garlic is not only tasty and healthy but it’s healthy, too. It contains a lot of vitamin C, essential oils and other ingredients such as magnesium, potassium and iron. The essential oils can alleviate flatulence and promote digestion. And wild garlic, like garlic, contains Allicin, an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial substance. Allicin gives both plants their characteristic smell.
Wild garlic is at least as healthy as its relative, the garlic – without affecting body odour.
But … there is a risk of confusing this plant with poisonous other plant species, many of which grow at a similar time as wild garlic. These other plants cannot just be poisonous, they can even be fatal if consumed.
Wild garlic is most often confused with Lily of the Valley because the green leaves of both plants are broadly oval.
When you want to pick and collect wild plants, including wild garlic, you should know a few rules to determine which plant you are dealing with:
- Wild garlic grows in shady and nutrient-rich deciduous forests and in forests near streams and rivers.
- It’s best to determine plants outside on site! Once you have collected the leaves of a plant, it’s much more difficult to determine the plants. For example, differentiating the stem forms: lily of the valley forms two large leaves that sit on the same stem and embrace it, whereas wild garlic has one leaf per stem only.
- Lily of the Valley has a glossy underside of the leaf, whereas the underside of the wild garlic leaves is dull.
- Once you’ve picked the leaves, rub them gently between your fingers and the leaves will exude this intense, garlic-like smell. If not, it’s not wild garlic. The only downside with this test: once you’ve rubbed a few leaves of wild garlic, your fingers will smell very strongly, meaning this method is not reliable any more.
- Wild garlic typically grows earlier in the year than Lily of the Valley, which usually does not sprout until mid-April.
- Lily of the Valley is classified as very toxic. All parts of the plant are poisonous, but especially flowers and fruits.
The other plant wild garlic is most frequently confused with, is Autumn Crocus (also called meadow saffron). Unlike wild garlic, in the autumn crocus several leaves emerge from the stem. Another important distinguishing feature is the location of the plants: like wild garlic, the autumn crocus prefers moist, nutrient-rich soils but is more likely to be found on meadows.
Did you know:
Already the small amount of about 50g of autumn crocus is fatal when consumed!
Posted on March 27, 2020 by Luitgard Holzleg
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