Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bear's Garlic

It was only 2 or 3 years ago that I learned about the pungent spring treat, ramps.

As I was working in my sister's yard last week I noticed that the raised bed in front of her front door was abundantly full of what I had always thought was lily of the valley. When I pulled one of the plants that had escaped the bed and was growing between two stones on the walkway I got a distinct onion/garlic smell and that got me thinking these plants may be ramps. I pulled one from the bed, taking care to get the whole plant down to the roots, and brought it inside to compare it to pictures of ramps on the internet.

One of the characteristics of ramps is that they have a purplish stem and the stem of what I had was white. Even though the smell was oniony I decided not to eat them until I was sure of what it was as I had read that lily of the valley and another plant of the same family were poisonous.

My sister got home from Greece the next day and told me that what they have growing is bear's garlic, a cousin of ramps. I harvested a few more plants and made breakfast for us-

This past Sunday, Jenny, Nico, Roland, Jocelyn, Steve and I went for a hike in the gorge in the forest that is not far from the house. We hiked along trails that were surrounded by dense beds of bear's garlic. It was everywhere. You can find patches of ramps throughout the Metroparks in Cleveland but this forest was covered with massive beds of the plant. When we go back to hike again this weekend I will take pictures.


  1. How does bear's garlic compare in flavor to regular garlic / onions / leeks / etc.?

  2. I cooked pasta with some ramps that Dave SW gave me. So tasty...

    I have some with the roots still attached. I was thinking I might try to plant a few. I doubt that they will take, but it would be great if they did.

  3. Tino, the bear's garlic tastes like leaks with a garlic edge. They taste very much like ramps although they are milder and less sharp. I do not know if that is the difference between the varietal or from where they grow.

    Edsel, wait unti you see pics of the endless beds in the forest here. To think we could have been using them!