Allium ursinum and the Bears in the Woods

The Teddy Bears’ Picnic

If you go down to the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down to the woods today
You better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic

Song melody by John Bratton

Lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy

(Listen here!)

Yes, the bears’ garlic is ready for picking!

Allium ursinum is better known in the UK and US as ramsons or wild garlic, but I prefer the image of bears eating it and translate the German “Bärlauch” to bears’ leek or garlic! 😉

Apparently bears like this when they wake up after their long winter nap… they know what’s good for them; it’s full of vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and allicin, which has antibacterial properties.

Every year we are warned not to confuse this aromatic leaf with the highly toxic Lily of the Valley leaves, or – even worse – the deadly Autumn Crocus leaves, which appear at the same time.

Our dear neighbour has a huge clump under his Magnolia tree, and lets me pick it. It’s easier than hunting in our woods where it grows only sparsely. And after all, I don’t really want to disturb any bears, or even wild boar who apparently also love it… (And we do have wild boar in the woods all around us.)

 Last weekend we enjoyed two delicious bears’ garlic dishes.

Bears’ Garlic Soup

So simple! For two helpings just cook one diced potato in 450ml vegetable stock. When the potato is soft, take the pan off the heat. Add about 40g bears’ garlic (washed and shaken dry) and 100ml (vegan) cream. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes. Puree, reheat a little and serve!

Whoops! We ate it before I could take a photo! 🙂

Bears’ Garlic Pesto

Blend together 75g bears’ garlic leaves, 35g pine nuts, 75g parmesan cheese, and 75ml olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve with pasta or just on some of your favourite bread.

We enjoyed our taste of spring with some locally grown new potatoes and some delicate spears of white asparagus – a regional speciality.


By the way, the neighbour who has lots of this wonderful herb in his garden celebrated his 100th birthday on Monday, and there was a great party. I hope I get to live that long! 🙂

21 thoughts on “Allium ursinum and the Bears in the Woods

  1. Lovely videoclip. Ich fand neulich einen Teddybären an einem Deich. Verloren von einem Kind – oder ein Teddy, der auf einem Picknick war. Das Pesto sieht gut aus!

  2. Pingback: Tuesday at Two (April 23rd) | Words and Herbs

  3. Pingback: Going Wild about Wild Garlic and Potato Gratin | Words and Herbs

  4. I wonder how different these are from our wild garlic (ramps) -allium tricoccum…. I’ve never had either, but they look similar. The only difference I see is that ramps seem to be harvested as an entire plant, root and leaves together. Seems awfully destructive, but I don’t know how quickly they multiply.

  5. Just discovered your site from “A French Garden”‘s blog roll. We planted 25 wild garlic slips called here in France “ail des ours” bears garlic. This is from its Latin name allium ursinum, ursus being latin for bear. Last year was their first and we had a few leaves, but this spring the plants are all very leafy so we will soon be trying these recipes!

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