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Fresh ramsons is a popular spring favorite. Thanks to Kündig, gourmets can enjoy the delicate, garlic-like fragrance all year round.
If you are walking through the woods and suddenly catch the subtle scent of garlic in the air, one thing is clear: it’s ramsons. Over the past 20 years or so, the green plant with its delicate fragrance has enjoyed increasing popularity in western cuisine. It is used to make pesto and herb butter and is added to pasta or gnocchi. It gives sausages, sauces and soups a distinctive flavor and is also used to add a particular aroma to vinegars and oils.
In earlier times, the use of ramsons in sophisticated cuisine was frowned upon, which explains why you will seek it in vain in old cookbooks. Wild garlic even failed to make an appearance in Auguste Escoffier's Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery. However,ramsons was mentioned early on in books about medicinal herbs, because it not only tastes delicious but is also healthy. It is believed to lower bloodpressure, stimulate the digestion and prevent hardening of the arteries.
But how did the plant come by its Latin name and its earlier name in English? What have bears got to do with it? We cannot know for certain, but it is said that bears awaking from their winter sleep would greedily dig up the bulbs of this spicy wild vegetable. What we do know for certain is that the Romans gave the leek-like vegetable its Latin name – Allium ursinum –, which translates as bear's garlic. The plant is known as such not only in English: the word "bear" also appears in its names in French (ail des ours), German (Bärlauch), Italian (aglio orsino) and Spanish (ajo de oso).
However, should you decide to collect it yourself, be careful: wild garlic leaves are remarkably similar to those of the lily of the valley, which is extremely poisonous. The best thing is to play it safe and buy them.