Bear’s garlic, Allium ursinum – also known as wild garlic – is an indigenous brother of garlic. Outwardly they have some things in common, yet they do not look quite the same. For example, bear’s garlic is a lot smaller and the leaves are clearly different. In the kitchen we also use it differently. We especially use the leaves and not so much the bulbi.
Given its family ties, it is to be expected that Allium ursinum is highly useful against liver disease, digestive system disease, vascular-related indications and conditions caused by bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic imbalances. It is a powerful ally to your immune system. In addition, its ability to prevent food poisoning is quite useful.
Bear’s garlic and garlic have a lot in common when it comes to magic. The protective effect of bear’s garlic is famous, although in later times this wild garlic was increasingly replaced by ‘regular’ garlic. Which is fortunate, since bear’s garlic suffered a lot from excessive harvesting in the wild and even ended up on the protected plant list.
Nowadays it is no longer on this list, but that does not mean that things cannot go wrong again. So, act sensibly, only pick what you need for your own use and leave the rest so that the plant can multiply.
Bear’s garlic has compound root tubers, which are ovoid elongated. These tubers produce dark green lanceolate leaves up to 8 cm wide that clasp the stem at the bottom. The leaves are smooth, like their edges, and have a clear midrib. the stem is about 40 cm long and ends from April to June in a semi-spherical corymb. The flowers have a star shape and are snow-white with 6 petals. The seed can be found inside 2 chambers, is black and is spread by ants. All plant parts smell like garlic when bruised.
Note: outside of flowering time bear’s garlic may be confused with TOXIC lily of the valley. Therefore, when in doubt, always crush the leaves, they should really smell like garlic.
Fun fact: Edda already mentions the garlic family in relation to magic and rituals. So it has really been used for a long time.
Dodoens has a nice anti-lice recipe: boil Bear’s garlic with wild marjoram in wine and drink this to chase lice off your body.
According to some, Bear’s garlic also repels moles, mice and rats.
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