The leaves of wild garlic taste similar to its bulbous counterpart and make an excellent seasoning in soups, sauces, spreads and dips. Alpine wild garlic is part of Viennese history.
Wild Garlic as an Herb
Wild garlic is often used as a substitute for garlic, but its exquisite flavor is much more delicate. The alpine herb is actually akin to chives in terms of its mild flavor. It’s mainly used to flavor traditional Austrian and southern German dishes, though is also increasingly being used in contemporary cooking. From the start of the First World War right through to after the Second World War, many people went hungry. During this time, many citizens of Vienna were grateful for the wild garlic found in Vienna Woods — it was the first spring herb to grow after winter.
Fresh wild garlic leaves should be picked when they are as young as possible and before the plant flowers for the best flavor. In dried form, too, the herb makes a great addition to soups, spreads, salads, meat dishes, purées and sauces like pesto. The flavor of wild garlic is exceptionally sensitive to heat, so it’s best to add the chopped leaves to a hot dish shortly before serving to prevent them losing their flavor. One excellent exception to this rule is meat and poultry dishes that are stuffed with wild garlic, as this allows the herb’s flavor to develop slowly.
Chopped wild garlic and a pinch of spicy paprika transforms bread topped with a cheese spread (such as Bryndza) into a gourmet meal!
The wild garlic season runs from mid-March to the start of May in the meadows and alluvial forests of the Alps. Although the herb does still grow in some places after this time, wild garlic is no longer suitable for cooking once the plant has flowered. It grows to up to half a meter tall and the umbels produce white, star-shaped flowers. Like garlic and onion, wild garlic belongs to the onion family, though its bulb is much smaller and is rarely used in cooking. Take care when picking wild garlic — it’s easy to confuse it with poisonous lily of the valley and autumn crocus.
- Scientific Name
- Allium ursinum L.
- Onion family (Alliaceae)
- Other Names
- Ramsons, wood garlic, bear's garlic
- Alpine region