What Are Ramsons: Growing Wood Garlic In Gardens

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Wild wood garlic, or Allium ursinum, is a productive, shade-loving garlic plant that you forage for in the woods or grow right in your backyard garden. Also known as ramson or ramps (different species from wild leek ramps), this wild wood garlic is easy to grow and can be used in the kitchen or medicinally.

Ramson Plant Information

What are ramsons? Ramsons are wild garlic plants that you may see during a walk in the woods. They grow well in the shade of a forest but will also grow in sun. Wild wood garlic produces pretty white flowers in the spring and edible leaves, flowers, and bulbs. The leaves are best enjoyed before the plants bloom. Not to be confused with the wild garlic often found growing in lawns, wood garlic somewhat resembles lily of the valley, in terms of its leaves. In the garden, it makes an attractive groundcover or a plant to fill in a shady area. Take care, though, around your other beds because ramsons can become invasive and spread aggressively, just as its weedy cousins. For culinary purposes, harvest the leaves before the flowers emerge in spring. The leaves have a delicate garlic flavor that can be enjoyed raw. When cooked, rampsons lose that flavor, developing more of an onion taste instead. You can also harvest and enjoy the flowers raw too. The bulbs, when harvested, can be used like any other type of garlic. If you want the plants to come back year after year, don’t use all the bulbs. Traditionally, ramsons have been used to stimulate digestion, as an antimicrobial agent, as a detoxing food, and to treat symptoms of respiratory illnesses, like colds and the flu. It may also be used for skin rashes and wounds.

How to Grow Ramsons

If you have the right spot for it, growing wood garlic is easy. Ramsons need well-drained, loamy soil with sun to shade. Excess moisture is one of the few problems you’ll encounter growing this wild garlic plant, so amend your soil with sand if necessary to help it drain better. Too much water can cause bulb rot. Once established in a patch in your garden or yard, you won’t have to do anything to keep your ramsons growing. As long as you leave some of the bulbs in the ground, they will come back every year, and there are no major diseases or pests that affect them.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.