Wild garlic is a member of the Lily family (Liliaceae). The above picture
was taken in Montgomery County Illinois in mid-July. The cluster of bulblets
at the top of the stem make the wild garlic easy to identify. Wild garlic can
be found in every county in Illinois.
As you can
see in the photo above, these sessile bulblets no longer have a flower at this point.
Each cluster contains 6-25 bulblets that form at the top of a round stem 12"
to 40" long. These garlic "seeds" will fall to the ground and
(hopefully) sprout a new garlic plant the following season.
Harvesting of wild garlic is done after the flower dies off, and the thin
fibrous casing around the bulbets breaks away so they can fall to the ground.
The picture above was taken at that point. In wild, undisturbed soils you
probably won't be able to just pull the garlic bulbs from the ground because
of the strong fiberous root system (see photo below). Instead, take a trowel or shovel and
loosen the soil about 2" from the base of the stem and you should then be able
to pull up the garlic bulbs.
Both the foliage and bulbs of the plant are edible but have a strong flavor
some people, and some animals dislike. To use the bulbs, harvest as directed
above, then rinse the dirt from the bulbs. I like to let the bulbs dry on a
cookie rack before storing. If dried properly, the bulbs can be stored for
quite a while. I like to use the garlic leaves while they are still green. I
cut a piece 2" - 3" long and rinse it with cold water. Chop the clean leaf
into 1/8" pieces and use anywhere you would normally use garlic.
An example of leaf use is I like to add these pieces of garlic leaf to just
enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet. Warm oil over
medium heat on the stove top. When the oil and garlic leaves are hot I add
steaks that have been seasoned with my favorite dry steak seasoning. Something
like "Weber Chicago steak seasoning" works well for me. Brown both sides of
the steak on the stove top. About 2-3 minutes each side. Then put the entire
cast iron skillet in preheated oven at 350°. Bake
until desired. I like mine medium rare so it only takes about 10 minutes in