Ramsons, also known as buckrams, broad leaved garlic, wood garlic and wild garlic, among other local names, is a wild herb that is native to Asia and Europe. The plant has both culinary and medicinal uses. The plant is popular in Russia, UK and various other countries as both an ingredient and medicine.
The first ever evidence of human use of ramsons has been discovered from the Mesolithic settlement of Barkaer (now Denmark) where an impression of the wild garlic leaf has been seen. In addition, in the settlement layer in the Swiss Neolithic settlement of Thayngen-Weier, a high concentration of ramsons pollen has been discovered. This has led some historians to insist that ramson here was used as fodder.
Cultivation and Edibility
Wild garlic mostly grows in deciduous forests and moist, slightly acidic soil is the best for growth of the plant. It flourishes in semi shaded regions and the plant's aroma, that is similar to that of household garlic usually fills the region of vegetation. Wood garlic usually blossoms during early spring and it has triangular stems. The plant does not contain any bulbs. The flowers are bell-shaped and look like lily of the valley.
Ramsons is considered a very invasive plant and if left to grow uncontrollably, it usually creates a full blanket of dense growth in the area. One needs to be cautious while picking wild garlic because of its similarity to other bell shaped flowers. The plant can easily be mistaken for various poisonous wild growths. One of the best ways to distinguish wood garlic from other wild growths is by rubbing the flower between fingers. If it releases a strong garlic aroma, it is the right plant. It is important to not consume the herb unless it has been properly identified.
As a food, ramson is considered very healthy and its consumption is encouraged almost everywhere in the world. The plant has leaves that are fully edible and are used raw in salads and also as an ingredient in soups, spices, stews and other preparations. When added to homemade pesto, leaves of wild garlic add a powerful flavor to the sauce and make it more aromatic. Chefs generally opt for ramsons instead of basil to flavor pesto.
When boiled, wild garlic can be eaten as a vegetable or added as an ingredient to other vegetarian dishes. In Russia, stems of the plant are preserved by salting and consumed as a salad. Bulbs and flowers of the wood garlic plant are quite delicious and added to various food preparations.
Medicinal properties of ramsons range from preventing blood clots and strengthening of the immune system to lowering cholesterol levels. Health benefits of the plant have often been compared to those of common cultivated garlic. Replete with antioxidants, wild garlic is popular for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. It is often used in homemade remedies for treatment of flu, cold, common fever, cramps and regular headaches, among other ailments. If used on regular basis, wood garlic has been known to be effective in lowering blood pressure. Small quantities of ramson oil are added to some cosmetic products that promise to keep the skin healthy, fresh and acne free.
Ramsons is a favorite of both brown bear and wild boar. The brown bear has quite a taste for the bulbs and has a habit of digging the ground to reach them.
Cows that feed on ramsons leaves produce milk that has a very strong garlic-y flavor. It is used to make a garlic butter that has been very popular in Switzerland since the 19th century.