Wild garlic – characteristics, cultivation, use and curative effects

Wild garlic flowers
Wild garlic flowers © Stephan Budke

Wild garlic is one of the best known local wild herbs, especially in Germany. The plant belonging to the leek family with the botanical name Allium ursinum, is both medicinal herb and aromatic herb. In the spring, the wild garlic is used fresh for pesto, spreads, wild herb salads and sauces. In natural medicine, the plant is used primarily for indigestion.

Profile of wild garlic:

Scientific name: Allium ursinum

Plant family: leek family, onion family

Oher names: ramsoms, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek, or bear’s garlic

Sowing time / Planting time: September – October

Flowering period: April- May

Harvest time: March-June

Location: shady

Soil quality: nutrient-rich and moist soils

Use as a medicinal herb: indigestion, cold, bronchitis, cholesterol, high blood pressure

Use as spice herb: sauces, soups, salads, potato dishes, pasta dishes, fish, meat, pesto

Plant characteristics and classification of wild garlic

Origin and distribution of wild garlic

Wild garlic is a plant that has its origins in Europe and can be found far into northern Asia. Due to the rather uncommon site requirements, the plant is found mainly in moist, shady alluvial forests and along river valleys and streams. Since wild garlic is very propagation-friendly, it grows meanwhile also wild in many gardens and parks.

Plant order of wild garlic

The wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is a member of the family Amaryllis (Amaryllidacea) and also belongs to the genus of leeks (Allium). This genus is very species rich with more than 300 species. Well-known representatives of the leeks are among others garlic and chives.

In the scientific botany also subgenera and sections are differentiated, whereby the wild garlic belongs here the section Arctoprasum.

a single flower of wild garlic
a single flower of wild garlic

Look and characteristics of wild garlic


Wild garlic is a herbaceous and perennial plant that reaches stature heights of 20 to 50 cm (8 to 20 in). During growing season, which takes place from spring to March / end of May / beginning of June, the wild garlic exudes its intense garlic-like aroma.


The leaves of wild garlic are lancet-shaped and grow on a triangular, slightly rounded stem, its length measures between five and 20 mm (0.8 in). The leaves themselves are up to 25 cm (10 in) long and between 2 and 5 cm (1-2 in) wide. Noticeable is the dull dark green leaf top with a lighter underside of leaves. Another striking sign is the elongated leaf nerves, which run in the direction of the leaf tip.


Not visible on the earth’s surface is the underground growing wild garlic bulb. The bulb is up to 5 cm (2 in) long, white and of oblong-slender shape.


During the flowering period from the end of March to the end of May, the leaf rosette rises from the flower, which sits on a stalk about 20 cm long (8 in). First, the flowers are surrounded by a white shell, which soon opens and presents 20 single flowers, each consisting of six white, star-shaped flowers in the form of a sham-umbel. Just like the leaves, the wild garlic flowers exude the distinctive smell of this plant. After flowering, capsule fruits, which are typical for leeks, develop and contain globular seeds.

Wild garlic – cultivation and care

Wild garlic is a very propagable plant. One bulb in the ground can under favorable conditions be sufficient so that a carpet of wild garlic grows in the following year.


Wild garlic is one of the herbs that prefer shady and partially shaded locations. Furthermore, the plant needs moist, calcareous, nutrient-rich and humic soils. However, the soil should be able to conduct water so well that no waterlogging occurs. Correspondingly common wild garlic colonies are found under shady deciduous forests and in areas near the groundwater such as meadows.

Sowing and cultivation

Wild garlic can be cultivated by bulbs as well as by seeds. Seed cultivation is best done at the beginning of autumn. Wild garlic is one of the cold germs that must be exposed to frost for a short time, so that the seeds begin to germinate. Sowing seeds, however, may be a game of patience because the germination rate of wild garlic seeds can be quite low and the seeds usually need more than a year to germinate. Since the seeds are also dark germs, the seeds should be pressed about 2 to 3 cm (1 in) into the soil. Between the individual wild garlic seeds a distance of 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in) should be kept, in order to avoid later nutrient competition as far as possible.

Bulb planting

Faster and more efficient is the cultivation with bulbs. If wild garlic bulbs are available, they can be put into the soil at a distance of about 25 cm (10 in) from each other. The bulbs should not be planted at times where frost can be expected. When planting, care should be taken that the bulb-tip points upwards.

Care and fertilization

Since the edible leaves of wild garlic appear only in early spring, then wither and die, wild garlic needs no special care. The care of the wild herbs is associated with little effort, insofar as the soil is sufficiently moist at this time of year. A special fertilization of the herb is usually not required. As helpful proves, the covering with foliage in the autumn time. The leaves decompose over time and provide enough nutrients for the following period.


Further steps for overwintering are likewise not necessary, since the leaves died after the wilting and shoot again next spring. A possibly necessary step may be the limitation of the growth area. If you want to prevent wild garlic from spreading uncontrollably in the garden, barriers under the soil, such as plastic foil around the bulb will work. In trade such barriers are often to get under the name root barrier.

Cultivation on the balcony

A cultivation on the balcony may be possible. Premises are balconies located in the shadow direction (North). As planters elongated buckets siut best, so that the wild garlic plants can spread. It is necessary that the soil never dry out. The wild garlic must never be exposed to direct sunlight for a long time.

Wild garlic in the garden before flowering, only leaves
Wild garlic in the garden before flowering, just the early leaves

Wild garlic and its use

First and foremost, wild garlic is used in the kitchen. Wild garlic has become a popular herb in recent years and is available in many supermarkets or at weekly markets (in Europe) at the start of the spring season. In addition, you can buy wild garlic sporadically as a dried herb – but associated with losses of aroma and health-promoting effect.

Wild garlic as an aromatic herb

Due to the growing popularity, especially the spring-kitchen benefits from wild garlic. Simple dishes are given an interesting note by the mild garlic-like aroma, which is concise but not as intense as that of onions and garlic. Another advantage of wild garlic is that, unlike other bulbous plants (e.g. garlic), you do not get an unpleasant bad breath.

More and more often you can find products that have been refined with wild garlic. Cheese, cream cheese with wild garlic, wild garlic soup, wild garlic tofu are just a few examples.

Wild garlic harmonises perfectly with fish dishes, soups, salads, potato dishes, light sauces, for example in the form of a wild garlic cheese sauce for pasta. However, it is important that wild garlic is only added to the end of the preparation of dishes, as the aroma loses its intensity due to heat.

In spring, wild garlic soup is a welcome change in the kitchen. With a few ingredients such as shallots, some cream (or a vegetable cream), vegetable broth and salt and pepper, you can cook a delicious soup quickly and easily.

Wild garlic used fresh

In addition to the cooked variant, wild garlic can also be consumed fresh. Fine strips of leaves taste just as good on a simple buttered bread as they are in fresh salads or as a curd or cream cheese dip in combination with other spring-fresh herbs. In addition, the leaves can also be used for herbal salt and herb butter.

Wild garlic pesto

Wild garlic pesto is becoming more and more fashionable. The original pesto-recipe is based on basil as a herbal ingredient. The other ingredients are not different. A simple recipe for a herbal pesto consists only of a bunch of wild garlic, which is rinsed thoroughly with water and carefully dabbed dry. Then the leaves are crushed with roasted pine nuts, cashew nuts or sunflower seeds with sufficient (olive) oil in a food processor until a pesto-like consistency is obtained. Finally, season with salt and pepper or other herbs you like.

Freeze wild garlic

Even if wild garlic is mainly used fresh, you can have the herb in store year-round for seasoning and refining. Wild garlic can be easily frozen. For this purpose, the fresh washed and dry-dabbed leaves are first crushed and then frozen in freezing bags or appropriate cans.

Dry wild garlic

Less recommended, however, is the drying of wild garlic. It is often recommended to dry wild garlic in the oven. However, many of the flavors are lost here. A good way to dry wild garlic leaves, is the processing in a dehydrator or on warm and sunny days on the terrace or balcony or tied to small bouquets and hung up to dry. After drying, the leaves should be protected from light and aroma-tight.

Wild garlic as a medicinal herb

Wild garlic is only known to most as an aromatic herb. Nevertheless, the aromatic early flowering plant has numerous ingredients that make a naturopathic application possible. The herb has many beneficial properties for health and has been used extensively since antiquity and the Middle Ages. For medical applications both the bulb and the leaves of wild garlic are used.

In antiquity and the Middle Ages, wild garlic was a commonly used medicinal plant. In the Middle Ages, the herb was cultivated in many monastery gardens. Hildegard von Bingen recommended the herb for indigestion as well as a good remedy for blood purification. In old herbal books of the 15th and 16th centuries, the healing effect of wild garlic was described in analogy to garlic. Accordingly, wild garlic was used for flatulence, abdominal pain, falling asleep, for inducing labor or for voice problems. The wild garlic was ingested either pure, boiled in wine, cooked or as a broth. Pickled wild garlic was also recommended for dental problems. Pressed bulbs were used as a remedy for lice.

The sulfur compounds contained in the leaves and roots, which are responsible for the typical wild garlic aroma, activate the activity of bile and liver and thus promote the digestion of heavy dishes. At the same time, the sulfur compounds, allicin, allinin and flavonoids are beneficial for high blood pressure and have a lowering effect on cholesterol levels.

In addition, the ingredients in the wild garlic are slightly antibiotic, support the mucus solution for colds and bronchitis, stimulate the urine flow. Studies have even found fungi-inhibiting and fungicidal properties in black mold.

Wild garlic - look through a fence
Wild garlic – look through a fence

Wild garlic used for the treatment of the following complaints:

  • asthma
  • bad wound healing
  • bronchitis
  • circulatory disorders
  • cold feet
  • cold hands
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • headache (common)
  • high blood pressure
  • indigestion
  • inefficiency
  • loating
  • loss of appetite
  • memory impairment
  • rheumatism
  • spring fever
  • worms

Wild garlic has the following effects and properties:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibiotic
  • astringent
  • bile supporting
  • blood purifier
  • diuretic
  • expectorant
  • improves circulation
  • irritating to the skin
  • lowering cholesterol
  • stimulating
  • stimulating metabolism
  • sudatory
  • toning

In folk medicine the wild garlic bulb is used in the form of juice or raw foe high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis. The leaves, on the other hand, are used for discomfort of the gastrointestinal tract, flatulence, high blood pressure, skin blemishes and some skin diseases. Today fresh wild garlic leaves can also be used to staunch smaller bleeding wounds.

Some medical studies even suggest potential applications for cancer therapies. Aqueous extracts of pulverized wild garlic plants were able to trigger the cell death of gastric cancer cells in cell cultures. The sulfur compounds in wild garlic, as well as other leeks, have cancer-preventing properties.

Side effects

Wild garlic is generally very well-tolerated. Too many doses of the herb can cause stomach irritation. In very rare cases, wild garlic may cause allergies which present pimples, excusions or shortness of breath.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy wild garlic – What is there to pay attention to?

Fresh wild garlic leaves are found especially in the spring months often in the supermarket or selected delicatessen. Care should be taken that the leaves are lush green and have a certain firmness. Saggy or yellowed leaves are less aromatic. In addition, in a bunch of fresh wild garlic only few flowers should be present, as with the onset of the bloom, the aroma also decreases.

Dried wild garlic should always be kept in airtight or aroma-protected packaging. If possible, the wild garlic leaves should be freeze-dried.

Wild garlic bulbs for the cultivation of the herb can be found in selected plant centers or online. Although bulbs can be bought all year round, fresh bulbs that are harvested and sold in the autumn months have the best quality. Good wild garlic bulbs have a distinctive pungent-aromatic smell.

For alternative medicine, also wild garlic capsules can be bought, which usually consist of the dried and powdered herb. Furthermore, wild garlic extract, which usually consist of a 25 to 45% alcoholic solution, can be purchased. These are usually used for gastrointestinal complaints as well as various gall bladder diseases. If you do not like the taste of the extract or the containing alcohol, you should take the capsules.

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