Wild garlic is an extremely versatile kitchen herb and tastes best fresh. Tips on how to recognize wild garlic, when the right harvest time is and what you should look out for when harvesting, can be found here.
Healthy, spicy and tastes like garlic without smelling of it afterwards – gourmets appreciate wild garlic as much as the despisers of garlic smell. Wild garlic has a short but intense appearance: from March the leaves venture out of the ground, in April wild garlic shows buds, in May the plants bloom and from June they retreat back into the ground. Wild garlic grows from a narrow bulb, reaches 30 centimeters in height and forms large stands in moist deciduous forests with nutrient-rich soils.
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Where and when can you harvest wild garlic?
Whether in the forest or garden, depending on the region and weather conditions, you can collect young leaves from March, but harvest time is consistently until May. The best harvest time is just before flowering, when the leaves have a useful size. However, they should still be tender, because then they are particularly aromatic and the plants can also be reliably identified by the already visible buds.
You can collect wild garlic for your own use in the forest, as long as there is no nature reserve or the area is designated as a natural monument – then the harvest is prohibited. In the garden, wild garlic grows under shrubs, but also in tubs. Since the plants also strive for large populations in the garden, banish them to escape-proof beds with vertically buried stone slabs as borders or to a raised bed.
What do you have to consider when harvesting wild garlic?
Wild garlic leaves look confusingly similar to poisonous lily of the valley. So before harvesting, be sure you are gathering the right plant. Always harvest only as much as you can use fresh, as wild garlic only keeps for a few days in the refrigerator and quickly loses its flavor. If you want to freeze wild garlic, you can of course collect more. Harvest only one or two leaves per plant so as not to weaken the plants.
How to recognize wild garlic without a doubt?
In order not to confuse the plants with the poisonous lily of the valley or autumn crocus, you should not plant these plants together in the garden. Wild garlic differs from lily of the valley in important ways. Always pay attention to several characteristics, then you are also on the safe side.
Wild garlic leaves give off a strong garlic scent when rubbed, the other two plants do not. As a smell test, however, this only works once, because after that you have the intense smell on your hand and in your nose – and everything you then touch smells of garlic, even stones or pieces of wood. Wild garlic leaves grow out of the ground on individual stems, lily of the valley leaves sit in pairs on the stem and their leaves are shiny on the underside. Wild garlic has notched petioles and is shiny on the top of the leaves, and the leaves have a distinct midrib on the underside. Autumn crocus grow rosette-shaped without a stem directly from the ground.
What can be eaten from wild garlic?
All parts of the plant, from bulb to flower, are edible. After flowering, however, the leaves become harder, more fibrous and do not taste as good. Wild garlic is not poisonous at any stage.
Can you freeze or dry fresh wild garlic?
You can use fresh wild garlic just like chives, but it is best to freeze excess amounts. When dried, much of the flavor is lost. Since you wash and chop wild garlic thoroughly before freezing, it’s best to freeze it in bags that you fill a good third of the way full and then spread the wild garlic thinly in them, a good inch high. The wild garlic then freezes together to a kind of plate, from which you can always break off something if necessary and leave the rest in the bag. If you put it in a can or make the bag too full, you will later have to deal with an icy lump that will be very difficult to get apart again. When cooking wild garlic quickly loses flavor, so only cook it briefly.
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