yum…Wild Garlic – ail l’ours

Wild Garlic in the spring.  Taking walks around the Haute Savoie are truly wonderful.  The breathtaking views, fresh air, mountain scenes and tranquillity of the countryside, coupled with the wildlife, flora and fauna make walking in this part of France a ‘must do’ when visiting this region.

    a walk in the woods at Presilly, Haute Savoie
    a walk in the woods at Presilly, Haute Savoie

Some of this said wildlife, flora and fauna are not only edible but delicious.  I’ll work my way through some recipes on my blog in the future but having found wild garlic growing prolifically on my dog walk in the last few weeks, I decided to pick* some and see what I could make.

Wild Garlic in the Haute Savoie
Wild Garlic in the Haute Savoie

Wild garlic or Allium ursinum to use its Latin name is a wild relative of the chive family native to Europe and Asia. In French, this is Ail l’ours. It is also known as bears garlic, wood garlic, ramsons, buckrams and broad-leaved garlic.  The Latin name is due to the brown bear liking for this plant and digging up the bulbs.  They are also a favourite of the wild boar known as the ‘Sanglier’ in France. The Sanglier features on the Chasse menu in the autumn during hunting season here.  
The wild garlic plants grow in woodlands and flower in the spring before the deciduous trees have their leaves.  The air in early spring is filled with their garlic-like scent. The leaves are similar to the lily of the valley and the flower heads are a round ball, but only contain flowers no bulbils. 
The leaves are edible and the flowers and bulbs are tasty too.  You can use the leaves in a salad, boiled as a vegetable like spinach, used in soups, or in pesto in place of the basil.  There is a Cornish Yarg cheese which has a rind coated with wild garlic leaves.

Recipe for Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild Garlic leaves - Ail L'Ours
Wild Garlic leaves – Ail L’Ours

2 or 3 handfuls of wild garlic leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
50g pine nuts (you could try any other nuts hazelnuts would be nice)
75g freshly grated or roughly chopped parmesan

Whizz up the wild garlic leaves, pine nuts and parmesan in a food processor or crush in a pestle and mortar, season with black pepper and add the olive oil to form a thick paste.  

Wild Garlic Pesto made in the Taste of Savoie Kitchen

I drizzled the pesto over a soup, also tossed it through pasta and spread it onto french toasts and topped with sun-dried tomatoes.  Pesto is the most versatile and tasty ingredient to jazz up many dishes.  The flowers make a great garnish.

*Always pick wildflowers and plants responsibly, don’t take the roots or bulbs and take note if you are in a conservation area and adhere to the rules so that we can all enjoy nature for years to come.

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7 thoughts on “yum…Wild Garlic – ail l’ours

  • May 12, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    I keep bemoaning the fact that there doesn't seem to be any wild garlic here in Brittany. In Cornwall, where I lived last, it was everywhere. It certainly doesn't appear to be here which is a great shame.Sandrahttp://livingin22.blogspot.com

  • May 13, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Thanks for this lovely post about wild garlic. I was wondering how to recognise it, and now that you've put a photo with the flowers I can see which plant it is. I can now keep a look-out for it. 🙂

  • May 13, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Wild garlic is rampant in Cornwall about this time of year and I love it. I get quite excited as the season approached and use the garlic in many,many dishes. In fact I have a bowl of wild garlic butter waiting my attention in the fridge right now!

  • May 13, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Oh that is a shame, I was told to look in deciduous woodlands, hope you can find some soon! You do have some great local food in Brittany!

  • May 13, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    thank you for your feedback, really good to know. If you think you find it, you can bruise a leaf and the pungent smell will give it away, happy hunting! If you would like to see anything specific on my blog from this region, foods, restaurants etc., in the future do please let me know

  • May 13, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    hhmmm wild garlic butter sounds good! This is a fairly new discovery for me and I am enjoying experimenting with it.

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