was amazed to discover in my researches that a Scottish company
is exporting half a ton of this plant a week to the U.S.A. as
a gourmet food, (2001 figures). It is a wild plant that conveniently
is ready to eat well before most things in the garden. It is also
well suited to an intermediate strategy between gathering and
horticulture/farming. That is the growing of non-domesticated
plants (not genetically modified by controlled breeding) in convenient
places under a degree of protection from competition and/or light
cultivation. This is a strategy that was long used in northern
Scotland, most notably for Silverweed, Potentilla anserina, (a
major pre-potato source of calories for northwest Scotland) but
also for other native species.
Almost three decades ago I asked for garlic sausage
in the village shop, to provoke the same shocked reaction now
as I got then I would have to ask for force fed, live boiled,
kitten pâté. Food taboos are fascinating in that
they seem to appear suddenly, within one or two generations, and
influence whole cultures for no rational reason then after a few
centuries they may disappear again under outside influence, as
the garlic taboo mostly has. How and why sometime in the late
19th century, I think, did a food that for millennia had been
so much used become the subject of such intense disgust. I find
even stranger as I cannot find out when or why it happened the
way in which after thousands of years of eating snails, most of
the population of Britain have developed such an intense cultural
aversion to them while many have kept eating the much less pleasant
tasting winkle, which is after all just a marine snail.
So long has wild garlic been venerated as a medicinal
and indeed so many are its actions that it has been used in many
ailments beside those listed below. It is the Holy Grail that
commerce seems to now be seeking, a medicinal food. Indeed its
general anti-infection properties and comparative safety probably
often encouraged its default use in most conditions 'to be on
the safe side'.
Non-medical uses of wild garlic
Edible Parts: Flowers, Leaves, Root.
Leaves, raw or cooked. Usually available early in the year. The
leaves make a very nice addition to salads, and are especially
welcome as a vital and fresh green leaf in early spring. Flowers,
raw or cooked. These are somewhat stronger than the leaves, in
small quantities they make a decorative and tasty addition to
salads. The flowering heads can still be eaten as the seed pods
are forming, though the flavour gets even stronger as the seeds
ripen. Bulb, raw or cooked. A fairly strong garlic flavour, though
it is quite small and fiddly to harvest. The bulbs can be harvested
at any time the plant is dormant from early summer to early winter.
Harvested in early summer, they will store for at least 6 months.
The bulbs can be up to 4cm long and 1cm in diameter. The small
green bulbils can be used as a caper substitute.
The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent. The whole
plant is said to repel insects and moles. The juice of the plant
has been used as a general household disinfectant.
Medicinal uses of wild
Anthelmintic, Antiasthmatic, Anticholesterolemic,
Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Astringent, Cholagogue, Depurative,
Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Expectorant, Febrifuge, Hypotensive, Rubefacient,
Stimulant, Stomachic, Tonic, Vasodilator.
of medical actions
Wild garlic has most of the health benefits
of the cultivated garlic, Allium. sativum, though it is weaker
in action. It is therefore a very beneficial addition to the diet,
promoting the general health of the body when used regularly.
It is particularly effective in reducing high blood pressure and
blood cholesterol levels. It is recognised as having a good effect
on fermentative dyspepsia. All parts of the plant can be used,
but the bulb is most active. Ramsons ease stomach pain and are
tonic to the digestion, so they can be used in the treatment of
diarrhoea, colic, wind, indigestion and loss of appetite. The
whole herb can be used in an infusion against threadworms, either
ingested or given as an enema. The herb is also beneficial in
the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. The juice is
used as an aid to weight loss and can also be applied externally
to rheumatic and arthritic joints where its mild irritant action
and stimulation to the local circulation can be of benefit.
Traditionally used in Scotland for treating kidney stones and
gravel. It has been suggested it may also have antiviral properties.
Very recent research has proposed Allium. sativum as useful in
cases of erectile dysfunction.
Plants For A Future,
Flora Celtica, www.floraceltica.com/,
Flora Celtica is an international project based at the Royal Botanic
Garden Edinburgh, documenting and promoting the knowledge and
sustainable use of native plants in the Celtic countries and regions
FLORA CELTICA: SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF SCOTTISH PLANTS paper
by William Milliken and Sam Bridgewater Edinburgh, Development
Consultants and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scottish Executive
Central Research Unit, 2001