I love it when the availability of a certain food signals the change of seasons, and medvědí česnek is a welcome sign of Spring in Brno!
This plant with broad, green leaves is a member of the garlic family and is also known as wild garlic, forest garlic or my favorite, bear’s garlic – reportedly due to the bear’s taste for the bulbs and its habit of digging up the ground to get them.
This native plant is widespread throughout Europe and can be found locally in the Czech Republic, but foraging is suggested only if you know how to identify wild garlic or can find someone with experience who will accompany you to the forest. Otherwise, you can find it in Brno markets and grocery stores.
Both the leaves and stalks are edible and offer a mild, slightly spicy garlic flavor. I’ve enjoyed it raw in salads and pesto, cooked in soup and risotto or steamed lightly and served like spinach. Try making wild garlic pesto and other recipes.
During the season (late March- early May) look for restaurants in Brno featuring medvědí česnek on the menu and don’t miss the opportunity to try this versatile and flavorful plant as part of your meal.
Full of antioxidants with properties similar to cultivated garlic, different forms of wild garlic are available year-round as herbal supplements. These products claim health benefits for various conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, indigestion and skin rashes. But more evidence is needed to assess their effectiveness and safety for these conditions, so consult your healthcare provider about using supplements or consuming large quantities.
Fresh medvědí česnek is still available locally, so enjoy it while you can, or you will have to wait until next Spring for a taste of this flavorful plant.
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Victoria Hawk is an American Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with more than 15 years of clinical and research experience. She is living in Brno with her husband Jon, who is working here on an expat assignment. Victoria enjoys learning about local foods and plans to share her experience through this blog series.