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Wild Garlic

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is a forager’s dream. It is super healthy and absolutely delicious.

The hangers of Hampshire (derived from the Anglo Saxon word, Hangra – meaning steep hill-sides covered in woodland) are covered with wild garlic at this time of the year, and so I seize the day and my basket to wander into the lost valleys to collect this delicious herbal treat.

Last weekend we made a gorgeous batch of wild garlic pesto, but wild garlic is so versatile that it can be layered onto a cheese and ham sandwich, chopped into a risotto, turned into an oil and drizzled over cold roasted chicken for lunch, or over humus and olives as an hors d’oeuvre.

But I am not a chef, so I shall tell you about its medicinal properties. It appears to be superior to kitchen garlic in its medical effects. All types of garlic are anti-microbial but those with higher levels of allicin (the smelly stuff) are more effective against bacteria, viruses or yeasts than the milder varieties, and Wild garlic has high levels of allicin – hence its strong taste and odour. Wild garlic can be eaten in abundance to help to ward off a chest or sinus infection, and those with a tummy bug would also benefit from a few meals rich in raw wild garlic.

An interesting though disheartening fact is that approximately 50% of the population carries Candida (yeast) without any signs or symptoms. The mouth, vagina or intestines can act as a reservoir for Candida, so that when the person takes anti-biotics, experiences hormonal changes such as pregnancy, menstruation, menopause or takes the contraceptive pill, or has a depleted immune system, such as those following chemotherapy or raised blood sugar levels, as in diabetes – the yeast flourishes, thus further compounding ill health.

The flowers exhibit more anti-fungal actions than the leaves due to their higher allicin content, so it would be worth including them in your salads, over your chicken or even making a wild garlic soup. Of course the underlying cause of the candida needs to be addressed. See my book How to cope successfully with Candida for further details on the many ways that Candida can wreck havoc on your health, and what you need to do to recover from this illness that GP’s will tell you that they do not acknowledge.

Wild garlic is also a superb food to support cardiac health. Scientific studies have shown it to significantly reduce total cholesterol by 44 – 52% (1), and to raise the so-called healthy cholesterol, HDL (2). Eating the plant as a vegetable reduces blood pressure, probably because it is dilates the blood vessels with nitric oxide (3), and three new types of flavonoid glycoside have been discovered which inhibit blood clotting, thus reducing the chance of a stroke (4). Moreover, because the leaves are highly anti-oxidant, they are being investigated for their ability to soften the cell membranes and that way protect against the dangerous hardening of the blood vessel walls caused by high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Below are two delicious recipes to enjoy. Both contain lots of wild garlic and extra virgin olive oil, which are two cooking ingredients perfectly suited to support the health of your heart.

(1)^ Inhibition of cholesterol synthesis in vitro by extracts and isolated compounds prepared from garlic and wild garlic. Sendl, A. et al. Atherosclerosis , Volume 94 , Issue 1 , 79 – 85.doi:10.1016/0021-9150(92)90190-R

(2)^ Wild garlic has a greater effect than regular garlic on blood pressure and blood chemistries of rats. Preuss, H.G., Clouatre, D., Mohamadi, A. et al. Int Urol Nephrol (2001) 32: 525. doi:10.1023/A:1014417526290

(3)^ Effects of wild versus cultivated garlic on blood pressure and other parameters in hypertensive rats. Mohamadi A1, Jarrell ST, Shi SJ, Andrawis NS, Myers A, Clouatre D, Preuss HG. Heart Dis. 2000 Jan-Feb;2(1):3-9. PMID: 11728237

(4)^ The flavonoids of Allium ursinum. Carotenuto A, De Feo V, Fattorusso E et al (1996) Phytochemistry 41(2):531–536. doi:10.1016/0031-9422(95)00574-9

Wild garlic Pesto:

A handful of wild garlic – leaves and flowers. Rinse and pat dry. Then air dry so that there is no moisture clinging to the plants.

Roughly chop the leaves and then drop into a blender.

Top up with extra virgin olive oil, so that the oil covers the leaves once they are chopped.

Whizz until as smooth as you like it.

Now add a handful of pine nuts and whizz again.

Then add a handful of parmesan cheese and briefly whizz again.

I personally find it a great treat to dip crusty French bread into the pesto as a snack.

Wild garlic oil:

Wash and dry as above.

Chop the leaves and drop into the blender. Cover with olive oil.

Whizz until smooth.

This oil can be poured into ice cubes and stored in the freezer so that it is available all year round for you to enjoy and to keep you healthy.