How to Pick Wild Garlic

Written by rena sherwood
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How to Pick Wild Garlic
Flowering wild garlic (Wikimedia Commons)

Wild garlic does not look like the white bulbs you see in the supermarket. It looks more like spear-tip-shaped grass blades with small many-petalled white flowers. Although wild garlic is plentiful in Europe, especially in the UK, it is not often seen in America. The growing season usually lasts from February to late May. You can grow wild garlic, but it is fun to pick in the woods, fields and beside rivers.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Paring knife
  • Basket, carrier bag or other small container

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  1. 1

    Identify wild garlic. You can usually do this by the smell--it smells exactly like garlic. The leaves are bright grass green, which get bigger as the season progresses. If you are sure of the plant, skip to Step 3. If not, go to Step 2.

  2. 2

    Cut one blade near the ground and give the blade a good sniff. If you are still not sure, rip the blade in half or in a few pieces. This will definitely give off a garlic smell if it is wild garlic. If not, leave it alone.

  3. 3

    Avoid wild garlic that has turned brown, is an almost ivy-coloured green or has had a dog just urinate on them. The older, ivy-green leaves are still edible, but tougher. Tiny holes from bugs or bunnies chewing on them is OK.

  4. 4

    Squat down next to the patch. Bending down from the waist will tire you out faster. Try not to step on the wild garlic.

  5. 5

    Cut the blade as close to the ground as you can with a sharp thumbnail (like pinching with your thumb and fingernails) or cut with a paring knife or bolline.

  6. 6

    Place the wild garlic into collecting bag or basket and repeat Step 5 until you have enough. Be sure to leave a few so they can flower and make more wild garlic for next year.

Tips and warnings

  • The white flowers are just as tasty as the leaves.
  • The most common wild garlic in the UK is also called ramsons, broad-leafed garlic or wood garlic.
  • If cows or goats eat this, their milk will taste slightly of garlic.
  • Don't pick a plant if you can't positively identify it.
  • Don't eat more than a few blades a day at the beginning of the season or for your first time with this plant. Your body has to get used to it gradually. Otherwise, you will get diarrhoea.
  • Don't pick wild garlic by the sides of busy roads because they will be contaminated by car exhaust.
  • Don't rip the blades out of the ground. You want to leave the roots in so the plant will grow back next year.

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