Sunday, 26 September 2010

Discover Ramsons

  • Ramsons (Allium ursinum) (also known as buckramswild garlicbroad-leaved garlicwood garlicBärlauchsremuš or bear's garlic) is a wild relative of chives
  • The Latin name owes to the brown bear's taste for the bulbs and habit of digging up the ground to get at them; they are also a favorite of wild boar.
  • Ramsons are one of the first spring greens, emerging from storage bulbs in February and March and are harvested at that time. 
  • Harvest ends when the plant starts to bloom, April through June.

Know your Ramsons - Origins

  • 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.

Know your Ramsons - Habitat

  • 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 wild garlic and field garlic, the flower-head contains no bulbils, only flowers.

Know your Ramsons - Culinary Uses

  • The whole plant can be used and has a distinctly milder taste than the cultivated garlic.  
  • 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. 
  • Once the buds and flowers appear in late spring, the leaves and small bulb of the ramson lose their vitality and the buds and flowers gain increasingly in flavour over the leaves.  
  • They are used much as the leaves.  
  • The buds have a delicious almost peppery/garlic taste and are delightful sprinkled over raw salads or likewise as a seasoning.  
  • Dig up the bulbs from July to December for using them as cultivated garlic.  
  • They will have developed a stronger garlic flavour than when producing leaves and flowers in spring.
  • The use of ramsons has reemerged in recent years due to an interest in traditional foods. 
  • Bärlauch cream soup and pesto are common dishes in Germany.

Know your Ramsons - Other Uses

  • 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.

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