Bear’s garlic, Allium ursinum – also known as wild garlic – is the little brother of the garlic we so love in the kitchen. Outwardly, they have some things in common, yet they don’t look quite the same. For example, bear’s garlic is a lot smaller and its leaves are clearly different. In the kitchen we also use it differently. We especially use the leaves and less the bulbi.
Given the family ties, it is not unexpected that Allium ursinum is very useful for liver diseases, digestive system disorders, blood vessel related indications and conditions caused by bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic imbalances. It’s a very powerful ally to any immune system. And it’s ability to prevent food poisoning can be very useful indeed
Magically, bear’s garlic and garlic also have a lot in common. Famous is the protective effect of these siblings, although in later times more and more garlic was used more and more. Which is fortunate, because wild garlic has suffered a lot from excessive harvesting in the wild – at least over here in Western Europe – and even ended up on the protected plant list. Nowadays, that is no longer necessary, but that does not mean that things can’t go wrong again. So be sensible and only pick what you need for your own use.
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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