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Cooking with Wild Garlic | How to Identify It and 20 Ways Use It In Your Kitchen

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Chef Asli Mutlu, based in Bodrum, Turkey is always amazed at how many herbs, mushrooms, berries and produce North Americans pass by as if they're weeds. In Bodrum, it's common to walk down the street and pick herbs along the way. One of the top wild foods that we pass by is wild garlic. Wild garlic is a treasure but if you don't know what to look for, its easy to mistake as a weed. Here's how to identify and cook with this culinary gold.

Wild garlic leaves up close

Where Does Wild Garlic Grow?

Wild garlic, also known by its official plant name "allium ursine, is a beautiful plant native to Europe and Asia, and now found all over the world. In North America it's widespread and commonly found throughout the entire east coast and along the western coast, as well. You'll find the plant in wooded areas where it becomes a lush ground cover in early spring, and throughout the growing season eventually grows a white flower, all of which is edible. Picking your own wild garlic means you're getting the freshest wild garlic out there, and best of all - it's free.


What Time Of Year Does It Grow?

Wild garlic is found in Spring months. In early spring, it begins forming as beautiful, lush leaves. After this initial growing time, white flowers begin to grow.


Wild garlic plant with white flowers up close

How Do You Identify Wild Garlic?

As with all plants, they change over the course of their growing period. The young tender leaves that flourish in early and mid Spring are what you're looking for. You'll know you found wild garlic in a few ways. First, is by sight. Wild garlic grows in large patches and the leaves grow in clumps. The leaves are sometimes likened to Lilly of the Valley. The long and slender leaves form to a point and they are tender. But the best way to tell is by smell. Does it smell like garlic? If the answer is yes, then crumple up a leaf and smell it again. Does it reeeaallllly smell like garlic? Awesome. Give it a taste. If it tastes like garlic, voila (!) you've found yourself some wild garlic!


Wild Garlic pesto on a baguette

What Does Wild Garlic Taste Like?

Wild garlic tastes phenomenal. Just like it's grocery store counterpart, wild garlic brings that unmistakeable pungency to your dishes. It's a little hot, slightly peppery and - well, it's garlic. When you find wild garlic you've struck free gold. Just a bit lighter and slightly more mellow than traditional garlic, it's a great addition to a variety of dishes.


Wild Garlic and Pork Dumplings with Wild Garlic Dipping Sauce Recipe

How Do You Cook with Wild Garlic?

We've reached the best part. Cooking with wild garlic is so easy. With just a few exceptions, you use wild garlic in the same ways as you would the common bulb garlic. You can also eat the entire plant, including the leaves, flowers, stems and the small root bulb that forms underground late in the growing season.


Adding Raw Wild Garlic to Recipes

Stems and leaves are best minced and added to your dish just before serving, as you would delicate herbs. To use the flower, simply snip the flower off and add as a pretty garnish to salads.


Cooking Wild Garlic

In addition to eating the plant raw, you can cook with raw garlic, as well. You can add the stems in the cooking process, just as you would raw garlic, sautéing until tender. However, most preparations are best when you add the leaves in later in cooking so they keep their bright flavor.


Chicken, Mushroom and Wild Garlic Stirfry in a wok

Ideas on How to Use Wild Garlic in Cooking

  1. Slice raw wild garlic leaves and add to a Tomato and Mozzarella salad

  2. Add minced wild garlic leaves to any salad, just as you would basil, oregano or dill

  3. Add a handful of roughly chopped wild garlic leaves to soups at the end of the cooking process

  4. Make wild garlic pesto

  5. Mix chopped wild garlic with cream cheese or goat cheese and spread on crackers

  6. Mix with softened butter to make Wild Garlic Butter, shape into balls for dinner party presentation

  7. Add to tomato or cream based pasta sauces towards the end of cooking