Oh, how much I love spring! It always arrives a little later in Berlin than in some other German regions, but by now, there is fresh green everywhere. And since deep down I’m a little nerdy botanist, this excites me very much. It’s time to collect – and eat – wild herbs again! And it’s time to dust this blog and feed it with some new (yet long planned) content about edible plants.
So today, I’d like to introduce you to the so called ‘few-flowered leek/garlic’ (German: “Wunderlauch” oder “Berliner Bärlauch”). If you don’t pay it a second glance, it’s easy to mistake this delicious plant for lilies of the valley or some good old juicy bunch of grass. But you’re missing out! The few-flowered leek could be considered as the little sister of the well-known bear’s garlic and is therefore also an early bloomer. However, this type of wild onion is actually NOT a native plant in Europe but has its origin in Middle Asia and Caucasian regions. Nowadays, it can be found in lush carpets here in Berlin-Brandenburg and other parts of Europe as well. Seriously, at a good spot, you can harvest whole bags of it within a few minutes.
So how to identify it?
Well, the leek’s leaves are bright green and glossy on the bottom, the upper side is rather matt. Plus, you should see a notable centre rib. The white flower heads are where the Latin and German name (Allium Paradoxum = ‘odd garlic’) derives from because they really look rather weird (see picture below).
[Fun fact cheekily inserted at this point: The Swedish name for this plant is SNÖDROPPSLÖK – try saying this without starting to giggle!!].
The roots are small and ball-shaped. But trust me, the easiest way to identify this beauty is by simply rubbing a leaf between your fingers and sniffing it. Garlic! GARLIC! GAAAAARLIC! If you don’t smell it – don’t eat it. Same rule counts for the bear’s claw by the way. Big botanical amateurs might confuse it with the poisonous lilies of the valley or autumn crocus, however, if the plant passes the seasoned snuffle-test, you’re on the safe side. Promised.
And last but not least: The few-flowered garlic is delicious! Just like other types of leek, it’s a great herb for many dishes: Sprinkle it (fresh or dried) over your scrambled eggs or soup, put it in a quiche, make savoury herb butter for your next BBQ or try this rough recipe for a delicious pesto:
- some big handfuls of the few-flowered leek
- olive and sunflower oil
- sunflower seeds and/or ground nuts (pine nuts, hazelnuts or walnuts)
- feta or parmesan cheese
- salt, pepper and maybe some more garlic
- (for the experienced herb witches: add some small amounts of other herbs like chickweed, goutweed or lesser celandine – the all grow early in spring!)
–> throw all ingredients in a mixer and fill the pesto in empty jars. If kept in the fridge, the pesto will stay fresh for 1-2weeks without the need of additional preservation. And they make nice little gifts for your friends and family! Enjoy 🙂