Ah, the spring, the greenery, the herbs, the foraging.
Starting from some time in March, until May and even beginning of June, Leipzig is filled with the distinct aroma of wild garlic. (Maybe you call it ramsons, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek or bear’s garlic, or just Bärlauch, if you’re German…)
It is perhaps the easiest and the most versatile herb to forage and, perhaps most importantly, it grows in heaps throughout Central Europe.
Kind of a chive, the name in many languages comes from the brown bear’s liking to it and the bear’s habit to dig up the ground to eat the bulbs. Brown bears have great taste.
How to find it and identify it?
Wild garlic is so common at least in Central Europe and the UK, you’ll unlikely struggle to find it.
Go to the nearest (semi) deciduous forest. Smell the air. The dead giveaway of wild garlic is the scent. You’ll smell it miles before you see it – as mentioned previously, the whole city of Leipzig smells of wild garlic for weeks.
Wild garlic tends to grow in low, bushy foliage, with quite long, thin stems and long, gently tapering leaves. The individual little “bushes” have each long and thin stems in the middle with one single flower bud growing on each stem.
However, the strong smell is such a clear way of identification that if ever in doubt, just rub a leaf between your fingers to break it and trust your nose – it will smell like a strong chive/spring onion and distinctly garlicky. There is no way to mistake wild garlic for anything else if your sense of smell has not been compromised!