Improvement status: Wild
Seeds per packet: ~60
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
Also known as ramsons, cowleek, wood garlic, buckrams, herba salutaris, and bear leek, among other names, is essentially the Eurasian equivalent of North America's ramps. Both are slow-growing, broad-leaved, shade-dwelling wild leeks with narrow elongate bulbs. But bear's garlic is most certainly distinct and has its own unique charms. This is not a plant grown as an ornamental, but does have showier blossoms than its North American cousin. Many of its names come from the clear preference of many animals for this plant. Brown bears seek it out, often consuming it immediately after coming out of hibernation. Cows have been known to eat so much of it that it makes their milk taste of garlic!
Bear's garlic has also been consumed by humans for thousands of years. Archaeologists once found an impression of a leaf in a Mesolithic settlement site at Barkær, Denmark. In much of its range, it can be found growing in vast numbers across forest floors, literally as far as the eye can see. As with ramps, bear's garlic is a seasonal delicacy. It's used in the same applications as garlic, scallions, and leeks, but is especially popular pickled, in herb butters, in pesto, and to flavor cheese. The flavor, even raw, is less pungent than most other commonly-eaten Alliums, so it is tolerated by many people who otherwise can't stand raw onions.
It is considered a very healthy vegetable, with higher amounts of various minerals than traditional garlic or leek. According to at least one Wikipedian, some people call it the "magnesium king" of plants due to its high concentration of that stress-reducing, circulatory system-protecting, sleep-regulating elemental mineral. Bear's garlic has long been used medicinally as well, to treat cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive problems, as well as for wound sterilization. Indeed, the old Roman name for it was herba salutaris, which means 'healing herb.'
Our seed was imported from the Netherlands via the expert seed importers at Sheffield's Seed Company in Locke, NY.
GROWING TIPS: Seeds should be cold stratified for 60 days after first soaking seed for 24 hours. Sheffield's recommends stratifying by surface-sowing on moist, tamped-down soil in trays and placing the trays somewhere cold for 60 days. After those two months, take the trays out, surround them in plastic wrap, then place in a warm, sunny location, and remove the plastic wrap once they've sprouted. We figure a ziplock bag in the fridge with some soil will work too (and has the added advantage of being a mini-greenhouse when you take them out of the fridge and put them somewhere warm). Plant in a moist, shady spot, and — as with ramps — wait a few years before even thinking about harvesting! Hardy to Zone 4.