Allium vineale, commonly known as wild garlic, crow garlic, and field garlic, is a pungent-smelling flowering plant thought to have originated from the Mediterranean region. Though commonly known as garlic, its appearance and flavor are closer to an onion compared to garlic.
Allium vineale prefers damp woodlands, ditches, and marshlands. You are likely to see it growing in clumps but in some instances may occur as an individual plant. Clumps normally occur in lawns where their foliage resembles grass but on closer examination, they appear darker. Since it tends to grow faster compared to grass, you are likely to notice patches in your lawn with taller foliage compared to the rest of the lawn. To find out if the taller patches consist of field garlic, pick a stem. If it smells like an onion, then it is wild garlic.
[Disclaimer: While it is easy to identify wild garlic due to its pungent smell, there have been cases of people mistaking poisonous herbs such as lily of the valley for the garlic. To ensure your safety, do due diligence and avoid tasting any plant you are unsure of.]
Wild garlic produces beautiful flowers with pink, green, white or purple petals. The blossoms normally appear during summer and are not easily noticeable unless you are looking for them as the flowerheads are quickly replaced by bulbils. Wild garlic flowers have both male and female organs and are pollinated by insects.
All parts of wild garlic (leaves, flowers, stem, and bulb) are edible. The leaves are great when cooked or raw. They enhance bland dishes such as cottage cheese or cream. In addition, the foliage is a great substitute for basil in pesto. If you intend to eat wild garlic later, cook the herb for 40 seconds, plunge into iced water and store in a refrigerator to retain its flavor and green color.
The whole plant can be chopped and added to mashed potatoes, served with various meats including lamb and beef. It is also delicious when tossed in salads as it brings a garlicky punch to the dish. Since cooking tends to degrade crow garlic’s flavor, make a habit of adding it towards the end of your cooking to preserve.
Wild garlic flowers can be added to salads or used for garnishing. In both instances, they make dishes sing. The herb shrinks a lot when cooked, so have enough of it at hand. In addition, since the pungent smell of wild garlic can be overpowering, consider mixing it with lettuce to take the edge off the herb and achieve a balanced flavor.
Ultimately, there are many ways you can eat wild garlic. Whether you choose to chop it up into a salad, blanch it or nibble on it raw, just make sure you get the most of this herb.