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At the Galway Food Festival a few years back, JP McMahon led a foraging expedition in Barna woods entitled “Walk on the Wild Side”, in celebration of the new wild garlic season, simultaneously robbing me of my own not-so-unique yet clever blog post title and YouTube video. McMahon was pleasantly amazed by the turnout : foraging was no longer a necessity but a stylish new skill to hone.


I remember how two friends and I would take leisurely strolls along the river by the University of Galway, and how we would suddenly find ourselves enveloped in the heady aroma of wild garlic. As we meandered through life’s conversations, we’d stuff our pockets with hand-picked leaves, ready to transform them into all sorts of pesto delights we’d no doubt discuss in length on our next outing. 

Wild garlic (allium ursinum), known as ‘creamh‘ in Gaeilge, is a member of the allium family and shares close botanical ties with garlic, onions, and chives. Its prime harvesting season in Ireland spans from April to June, characterised by the emergence of long, dark green leaves and occasionally adorned with white flowers. Found along hedgerows and thriving in damp woodland, wild garlic is a quintessential springtime species to keep an eye out for.


Wild garlic is a very ancient Irish herb consumed for years and years which undergoes various stages of growth throughout the season. Its delicate early spring shoots offer an incredible raw delicacy, while its maturation lends itself to savoury wild garlic pesto, which works well when complemented by a decent portion of fresh pasta and extra virgin rapeseed oil. With the emergence of its flowers, wild garlic adds a vibrant colourful touch to salads, and by early June, as the petals fade, the seed heads can be salted overnight and pickled for a few months to become those tiny incredible Irish capers.

Wild garlic is more than just a tasty treat and is important to other species. Bees love its clusters of white star-shaped  flowers and broad, long leaves, while badgers and squirrels snack on its bulbs.

Now be careful, Lily of the Valley may look similar to wild garlic, but it’s actually poisonous – smell it, and if it doesn’t smell garlicky steer clear. Another evil doppelganger is Lords and Ladies, a lookalike with irritant properties. Just keep an eye out when foraging to avoid any mix-ups.

Practise considerate harvesting. Respecting wild garlic means respecting the land it grows on. Always seek permission before harvesting bulbs – it’s illegal otherwise. Keep in mind that pulling out the bulbs prevents the plant from returning the following year, and honestly, there’s no point in removing them since they’re not used in cooking anyway. When picking leaves, spread out your harvest and handle with care to avoid bruising. And watch out for leaves near dog-walking areas…


Want to help make Ireland Wild again? When you “Save A Sod” you protect a Green Sod Wild Acres site and all the wildlife that thrives upon it. Save a sod for a friend or loved one – Find out more about the Wild Acre sites in our care and the Save a Sod initiative here


References :

Foraging Guide Wild Garlic | UK Foraging. (n.d.). Foraging Course Site https://www.foragingcoursecompany.co.uk/foraging-guide-wild-garlic 

Coldstream, H., & Coldstream, H. (2022, March 11). How to forage wild garlic. Great British Chefs. https://www.greatbritishchefs.com/features/how-to-forage-wild-garlic 

McMahon, J. (2018, April 14). Why wild garlic is the gateway drug for the novice forager. The Irish Times. https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/why-wild-garlic-is-the-gateway-drug-for-the-novice-forager-1.3454583 

Wild garlic | Ulster Wildlife. (n.d.). https://www.ulsterwildlife.org/wildlife-explorer/wildflowers/wild-garlic

Photos by Rory MacCanna: https://www.flickr.com/people/maccannarory/