Name: Allium ursinum
Ramsons grow in deciduous woodlands with moist soils, preferring slightly acidic conditions. They flower before deciduous trees leaf in the spring, filling the air with their characteristic garlic-like scent. The stem is triangular in shape and the leaves are similar to those of the lily of the valley. Unlike the related crow garlic and field garlic, the flower-head contains no bulbils, only flowers.
Ramsons leaves are edible; they can be used as salad, spice, boiled as a vegetable, in soup, or as an ingredient for pesto in lieu of basil. The stems are preserved by salting and eaten as a salad in Russia. The bulbs and flowers are also very tasty. Ramsons leaves are also used as fodder. Cows that have fed on ramsons give milk that tastes slightly of garlic, and butter made from this milk used to be very popular in 19th century Switzerland. The first evidence of the human use of ramsons comes from the mesolithic settlement of Barkaer (Denmark) where an impression of a leaf has been found. In the Swiss neolithic settlement of Thayngen-Weier (Cortaillod culture) there is a high concentration of ramsons pollen in the settlement layer, interpreted by some as evidence for the use of ramsons as fodder.
Harvesting the plant….but beware!!!
Ramsons leaves are easily mistaken for lily of the valley, sometimes also those of Colchicum autumnale and Arum maculatum. All three are poisonous and possibly deadly. A good means of positively identifying ramsons is grinding the leaves between one’s fingers, which should produce a garlic-like smell. When the leaves of ramsons and Arum maculatum first sprout they look similar, however unfolded Arum maculatum leaves have irregular edges and many deep veins while ramsons leaves are convex with a single main vein. The leaves of lily of the valley come from a single purple stem, while the ramsons leaves have individual green-coloured stems.