Edible Wild Plants: Field Garlic / Wild Garlic (Allium Vineale)

Field Garlic (Allium Vineale) aka Wild GarlicField Garlic (Allium Vineale) aka Wild Garlic is a tough and very rank species which infests fields, pastures and roadsides of the Atlantic states and from New York southward so often flavors the late-winter and early-spring milk with garlic oil, is apparently not valued as human food. It belongs in the excessively strong-flavored series of species which were so feelingly characterized two centuries and a half ago by that learned and delightfully intelligent Englishman, John Evelyn:

Garlick… and tho’ both by Spaniards and Italians, and the more Southern People, familiarly eaten, with almost every thing… we yet think it more proper for our Northern Rustics… Whilst we absolutely forbid it entrance into our Salleting, by reason of its intolerable rankness, and which made it so detested of old, that the eating of it was (as we read) part of the Punishment for such as had committed the horrid’st Crimes. To be sure, ’tis not fit for Ladies Palates, nor those who court them, farther than to permit a light touch on the Dish with a Clove thereof…

Note, That in Spain they sometimes eat Garlick boil’d, which taming its Fierceness turns into Nourishment, or rather Medicine.

Field Garlic originated in Europe. It can be found in the eastern half of the U.S. and the western region of the Pacific Northwest, and is widespread throughout Ohio. This species is drought tolerant, and can grow in a variety of soil types ranging from heavy, wet soils to dry, sandy or gravelly soils. Wild garlic is common in grain fields, pastures, meadows, lawns, gardens and waste places, as well as along roads, rivers and streams.

Wild Edible Field GarlicBasal leaves of field garlic emerge in early spring. Flowering occurs from May to June. After flowering, the leaves die back, and the flower stems may remain standing through the summer and into fall. Aerial and soft-coated bulblets can germinate the same season they are produced, while hard-coated bulblets remain dormant through the winter and germinate the following spring or within the next 1 to 5 years. Sometimes aerial bulblets germinate in the stem-top clusters while the stems are still standing.

Field garlic is a troublesome weed that is difficult to control. Aerial bulblets are similar in size to wheat grain, and are difficult to separate out of wheat contaminated during harvest. The bulblets can give flour a garlic flavor and odor. If wild garlic is used as forage by livestock and poultry, the resulting meat, milk and eggs can become tainted with a garlic odor and flavor. In large infested areas, a regime of fall tillage followed by spring tillage and a clean cultivated crop, if done for several years, will reduce the number of bulbs in the soil. For isolated patches of wild garlic, hand removal is the most effective method.

One interesting fact is that Field Garlic is resistant to herbicides due to the structure of its leaves, being vertical, smooth and waxy. Herbicides do not cling well to it and are therefore not as effective.

Wild Garlic (Allium Vineale)

Wild Garlic is often confused with wild onion or nodding onion (Allium Cernuum) – Click here to read about Wild or Nodding Onion (Allium Cernuum)

Edible Parts

  • Flowers
  • Leaves
  • Roots

Uses

Leaves – raw or cooked. Rather stringy, they are used as a garlic substitute. The leaves are available from late autumn until the following summer, when used sparingly they make a nice addition to the salad bowl.

Bulb – used as a flavoring. Rather small, with a very strong flavor and odor. The bulbs are 10 – 20mm in diameter.

Bulbils – raw or cooked. Rather small and fiddly, they have a strong garlic-like flavor.

Medicinal Uses

The whole plant is anti-asthmatic, blood purifier, carminative, cathartic, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, stimulant and vasodilator.

A tincture is used to prevent worms and colic in children, and also as a remedy for croup.

The raw root can be eaten to reduce blood pressure and also to ease shortness of breath. Although no other specific mention of medicinal uses has been seen for this species, members of this genus are in general very healthy additions to the diet.

They contain sulfur compounds (which give them their onion flavor) and when added to the diet on a regular basis they help reduce blood cholesterol levels, act as a tonic to the digestive system and also tonify the circulatory system.

Other Uses

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 can be rubbed on exposed parts of the body to repel biting insects, scorpions etc.

Poisonous Lookalikes

Two poisonous lookalikes are “Death Camass” and “Star of Bethlehem”. Both are poisonous to humans and animals so please make sure you properly identify your Field Garlic before consuming.

Death Camass (Zigadenus Venenosus)

Death Camass (Zigadenus Venenosus)

Star Of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum Umbellatum)

Star Of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum Umbellatum)

Where Does Field Garlic / Wild Garlic (Allium Vineale) Grow?

Where Does Field Garlic (Allium Vineale) Grow?

How To Identify Field Garlic / Wild Garlic (Allium Vineale)

Seedlings

Resemble those of a grass, but have hollow, round leaves.

Field Garlic (Allium Vineale) Leaf
Leaves

Leaves are round, hollow, arising from a bulb, 6-24 inches long, 2-10 mm wide.  All leaves have a garlic-like or onion scent.

Field Garlic (Allium Vineale) Stem
Stems

Flowering stems are the only stems that occur.  These are slender, solid, waxy, unbranched, and 1-3 feet tall.

Field Garlic (Allium Vineale) Flowers
Flowers

Flowers are produced at the top of the flowering stems.  Flowers are greenish-white, small, and on short stems above the globe of aerial bulblets.  Aerial bulblets are ovoid, often wholly or partially replace the flowers, and are usually tipped by a long, fragile slender green leaf.

Fruit

The fruit is an egg-shaped 3-parted capsule.

Field Garlic (Allium Vineale) Roots
Roots

Round to egg-shaped bulbs with a papery outer covering.  Smaller bulblets may form at the base of the bulbs, and fibrous roots are also attached at the bases of the bulbs.

Videos

This is an excellent video about Field Garlic by YouTube user RichTheRidgeHunter. If you like the video please be sure to comment or like his video and/or YouTube channel!

1 Comment

One Response to “Edible Wild Plants: Field Garlic / Wild Garlic (Allium Vineale)”

  1. Carole Gibson says:

    Very well photographed and explained. Thank you.

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