Wild garlic: what it is and where to find the treasure of the woods – Italian cuisine reinvented by Gordon Ramsay


Wild version of common garlic, wild garlic has always been present in our woods but only recently has its great value in the kitchen been disappearing. Also because until a few years ago only the natives knew how to distinguish it from other similar (and poisonous) varieties, they kept it in family recipes and followed its seasonality. The great chefs have cleared it, breaking down the old taboos of bon ton that fear its smell.

Wild garlic: the 100% edible “wild” version

Wild garlic is the wild cousin of common garlic, a spontaneous and perennial medicinal plant. It belongs to the same family as the tulip and grows almost everywhere without major demands: in the woods, along ditches and near rivers. It seems to have taken its name from the enjoyable habit of bears to stock up on them to recover the energy lost when waking up from hibernation (or so the popular legend says). It has antibiotic and antifungal properties and is rich in vitamins and minerals. This tenacious plant is totally edible, so much so that it can be considered a “vegetable” version of pork, nothing of which is thrown away. Most importantly, from the bulb to the stem and up to the leaves it has a strong taste, but less persistent than classic garlic.

Dangerous similarities

We are all passionate about foraging, or perhaps we would like to, but we must remember that the pitfalls, as with mushrooms, are just around the corner when it comes to collecting wild herbs. In fact, wild garlic is very similar to other species that are highly poisonous if ingested, i.e. thrush and colchicum. Our senses can help us recognize it even when it is not in flower but it is better to contact a local person and an expert botanist or agronomist who can check the spoils. So let’s not get carried away by enthusiasm and leave the wild plants where they are, admiring and smelling them: there is a much safer way to enjoy all the properties of wild garlic. Let’s grow it on the balcony.

The wild garlic flower.

On the terrace it is a guarantee

We can grow wild garlic in our homes starting from seeds, seedlings and bulbs. In the first case we can find the seeds in specialized shops, but in this case we will have to wait at least two years to have something to bite into. It is therefore better to opt for bulbs to be buried in autumn in groups of three as is done for garlic and onion, or the seedling that can be transplanted directly into a pot in spring. The leaves can be picked and used all year round, watering them to avoid stagnation. Wild garlic is perfect for “black thumbs” (who would be better off just buying plastic flowers) and for shaded balconies, the nightmare of lovers of metropolitan gardening.

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