Wild garlic can be used raw or cooked to enhance a variety of dishes. It serves as an ingredient for salads and is also used for flavoring soups and sauces. Furthermore, wild garlic has a soothing effect on gastric and intestinal complaints.
From Wikipedia: “Allium ursinum – known as ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek, or bear's garlic – is a wild relative of chives native to Europe and Asia. The Latin name is due to the brown bear's taste for the bulbs and its habit of digging up the ground to get at them; they are also a favourite of wild boar. In Europe, where ramsons are popularly harvested from the wild, similarity to poisonous plants such as lily of the valley or Colchicum autumnale regularly leads to cases of poisoning.”
Description and distribution:
“Allium ursinum is a bulbous, perennial herbaceous monocot, that reproduces primarily by seed. The narrow bulbs are formed from a single leaf base and produce bright green entire, elliptical leaves up to 25 cm long x 7 cm wide with a petiole up to 20 cm long. The inflorescence is an umbel of six to 20 white flowers only, lacking the bulbils produced by some other Allium species such as Allium vineale (crow garlic) and Allium oleraceum (field garlic). The flowers are star-like with six white tepals, about 16–20 mm in diameter, with stamens shorter than the perianth.
It flowers in the British Isles from April to June starting before deciduous trees leaf in the spring. The flower stem is triangular in cross-section and the leaves are broadly lanceolate similar to those of the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). It is native to temperate regions of Europe, from Britain east to the Caucasus. It is common in much of the lowland British Isles with the exception of the far north of Scotland, Orkney, Shetland, and the Channel Islands.
A. ursinum is widespread across most of Europe. It grows in deciduous woodlands with moist soils, preferring slightly acidic conditions. In the British Isles, colonies are frequently associated with bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), especially in ancient woodland. It is considered to be an ancient woodland indicator species.”
Similarity to poisonous plants:
“The leaves of A. ursinum are easily mistaken for lily of the valley, sometimes also those of Colchicum autumnale and Arum maculatum. All three are poisonous. Grinding the leaves between the fingers and checking for a garlic-like smell can be helpful, but if the smell remains on the hands, one can easily mistake a subsequent poisonous plant for bear garlic. When the leaves of A. ursinum and Arum maculatum first sprout, they look similar, but unfolded Arum maculatum leaves have irregular edges and many deep veins, while ramsons leaves are convex with a single main vein. The leaves of lily of the valley are paired, dull green and come from a single reddish-purple stem, while the leaves of A. ursinum emerge individually and are bright green.”
Dried wild garlic:
When wild garlic is dried, it loses a great deal of flavor. It is usually dried in a dehydrator, the oven, or outside in the fresh air. The first option is the quickest, whereas drying it in the oven requires more time and the smell of wild garlic tends to be quite strong. If you dry wild garlic outside, you should make sure the leaves are in a shady area with a lot of fresh air so that mold doesn’t form. Many connoisseurs are not in favor of these drying methods because the resulting product is of lesser quality as compared to fresh wild garlic. However, freeze-drying wild garlic preserves the flavor more effectively.
Processing and storing wild garlic:
Apart from drying, there are a variety of ways to maintain the flavor of wild garlic. These include processing fresh wild garlic to make wild garlic pesto, spread, butter, or oil. When properly stored, these products keep well for several months. If you need to store fresh leaves for a short period of time, it works best to carefully wash them (being careful not to bruise) and then freeze the leaves whole, or chopped if you want to use it later in soups in salads.
“The leaves of A. ursinum are edible; they can be used as salad, herb, boiled as a vegetable, in soup, or as an ingredient for a sauce that may be a substitute for pesto in lieu of basil. The stems are preserved by salting and eaten as a salad in Russia. A variety of Cornish Yarg cheese has a rind coated in wild garlic leaves. The bulbs and flowers are also edible. It is used for preparing herbed cheese, a Van speciality in Turkey.
The leaves are also used as fodder. Cows that have fed on ramsons give milk that tastes slightly of garlic, and butter made from this milk used to be very popular in 19th-century Switzerland. ...”
“In traditional medicine, wild garlic is used to help with gastrointestinal problems. This is because it has antibacterial effects that work against flatulence (carminative) and digestive problems (caused by fermentation). It is also has antihypertensive and antiatherosclerotic effects.
Wild garlic is often used in natural medicine. It owes its medicinal benefits to the essential oils it contains, most of which include sulfur. These have positive effects on the respiratory tract, liver, gallbladder, intestine, and stomach. It is also used as an effective treatment against arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and intestinal disorders. In addition, it stimulates metabolism, has a positive impact on cholesterol levels, and helps in the case of worm diseases.*”
Note (italics): * = Translation from a German Wikipedia entry