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Canadian Wild Garlic

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Wild Garlic (Allium Canadense)

Sprouting garlic bulb

Sprouting garlic

Wild Garlic bulb sprouting - Photo by Dyson Forbes

Wild garlic, or Allium Canadense, is a widespread North American garlic variety that comes packed with a real punch. It is smaller and a bit stronger in flavour than varieties you find at the supermarket. Many parts of the wild garlic plant can be used throughout the year.

Garlic shoots
Wild Garlic shoots - Photo by Dyson Forbes

Early in the spring when wild leeks and Morel are popping out of the ground, before the grasses have really taken off, you will find lush green clumps of wild garlic poking out of meadows. The young shoots make a wonderful stand-in for green onions with a distinctive garlic flavour.

Garlic in pots
Wild Garlic shoots plated for sale at markets - Photo by Dyson Forbes

Every year we dig some up and put it in pots so people at markets can either reintroduce it to areas they live in, or try to grow some to harvest the bulbs and scapes. While transplanted wild garlic usually disappears the year you plant it, it will often come back for years after you have introduced it. Mature plants will develop scapes, and if these are trimmed they will develop beautiful garlic bulbs. Properly cared for wild garlic can come back year after year. 

Wild Garlic habitat
Wild garlic thriving on the crest of the Niagara escarpment  - Photo by Dyson Forbes

Wild garlic can grow in many places. On the crest of the Niagara Escarpment, growing in clay and limestone, we see nearly all the green in this above photo is wild garlic.

Wild Garlic Scape
Garlic scapes - Photo by Dyson Forbes

Wild Garlic Scape
Picking garlic scapes - Photo by Dyson Forbes

In July you start to see the flower buds, also called scapes, twisting like pigtails off the top of the plant. You can pick these, to tell the plant to put all its energy into the bulb, or let them develop into the seed heads. Picking scapes is easy, just snap off the plant like you would with asparagus. Older scapes might need peeling and blanching, but young ones can be cut small and put raw in salads or sauteed and paired with other foods.

Wild Garlic seed
Wild Garlic seed heads ready to pick and spread - Photo by Dyson Forbes

It is easy to pick the garlic seed heads, Just be sure to scatter them around. The seed heads are like little concentrated bulbs, they have a ton of spicy flavour and are perfect for use in soups or for flavouring brines or in place of chunks of garlic.  

Wild Garlic Seed
Wild Garlic seed head - Photo by Dyson Forbes

Wild Garlic bulb
Freshly dug up wild Garlic bulb - Photo by Dyson Forbes

Come autumn, wild garlic bulbs are ready to harvest. Remember what patches you removed the scapes from and dig them up. Tilling the dirt and leaving premature bulbs will help more come up the following year. This is also a great time to spread some of the garlic seeds that have formed where you left flowers intact. 


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