Bear’s Garlic – also known as ramsons, wood garlic, bear leek and other names – is related to allium sativum but certainly isn’t a substitute for ordinary garlic.
What Is Bear’s Garlic?
Bear’s Garlic is a member of the allium family with the technical name Allium ursinum. Why is it called bear garlic? Because, apparently, brown bears enjoy eating it – especially when just coming out of hibernation. Personally I wouldn’t want to interrupt a bear in order to discover what it was eating for breakfast!
The bear garlic plant has long leaves with a six pointed white starlike flower. The base produces a single narrow bulb. The leaves have a distinct but subtle garlic flavour and are often used in salads or as a herb. If you squeeze a bear’s garlic leaf between your fingers, it will leave a strong garlic smell – probably stronger than the actual taste. The bulb is also edible.
Bear’s garlic is often found growing wild (hence one of its other names: wild garlic). However be very careful if you’re thinking of picking this. The leaves have a very similar appearance to those of other plants such as lily of the valley and meadow saffron, both of which are poisonous. If in doubt, don’t eat it.