What’s that wacky German food? Bärlauch

English Garden, Munich

In English bärlauch is called ramsons or wild garlic, or sometimes even bear’s garlic (which is the translation most similar to the German name); that’s a lot of names for something I had never heard of before moving to Germany. The edible leaves are pungent, with a flavor that falls somewhere between garlic and wild onions.

I bought some bärlauch at the farmers market the other day, but I was a sucker, paying for something that grows in abundance for free in the English Garden, Munich’s big urban park. (Note: please don’t eat anything you pick yourself in the wild unless you know what you’re doing. Look-alike plants can be poisonous.)

baerlauch leaves

One sees bärlauch most often in pesto form, but it’s a rather versatile herb that’s easy to experiment with. About half of my bärlauch ended up in a salad, mixed in with various greens; the other half went into a batch of bärlauch hummus, which ended up being an almost disturbing color of green, but very tasty.

Have you cooked with bärlauch?

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25 thoughts on “What’s that wacky German food? Bärlauch

  1. ok, so I haven’t cooked with it, but I’ve had it in lots of things like soups, spreads, and definitely the pesto that you mentioned.

    I took a class last year with a herbalist and she was explaining all the health benefits from Baerlauch…wish I could remember them. I also think she said it’s safer to eat it when it’s ‘young’ and not so much at the end of the season, but I could be confusing it with something else…Kräuter classes auf Deutsch are mind warpring I tell ya!!

    I don’t know if I would trust picking it in the English Garden, too many dogs, LOL! Like you said, it’s safer to buy it if you’re unsure in any way!

  2. @Juliette – That sounds like an interesting class! I’d love to learn more about local plants, especially the edible ones.

  3. I don’t know about ramps but it is called ramsons (not that I’ve really ever heard that term used until I wrote about this last year).
    I made pesto from the bärlauch we have growing in our garden. You’ve got to remember to pick it before it starts to bloom because it gets really bitter.

    This year I might make bärlauch soup — it’s divine!
    Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead recently posted..Made in Germany Giveaway

  4. I just saw this on the menu at the Park Cafe today! What a coincidence! When we asked the waiter, he said it was “herbs”. Your description was much more informative! Thanks!

  5. @Tiffany – Mmmm, I bet bärlauch soup would be quite tasty. Might have to try that myself.

    @Carey – Glad I could help!

  6. Love the way you pick up all these topics that throw us expats for a loop. Bärlauch — what on earth is it? and what kind of a name is that? I remember thinking upon first being confronted with it. Anyway, had to chuckle; nice post.
    (Oh, and “Spargelzeit” is nearly — or already — upon us; another chance for us expats to be stupefied over crazes we were just never familiarized with back home!) :-)
    Best,
    Michael
    Michael recently posted..So very spring in Cologne

  7. I’m with Nora. These sound a lot like ramps. My favorite cooking technique involves frying in a little oil. The are great in an omlette or quiche.

  8. @Michael – Yes, very excited for Spargelzeit! I already have a post started on it. I think this “wacky German food” thing is going to become a regular feature here.

    @Christi – Ooo, thanks for the ideas. I’m going to have to pick up some more of these ramps this week, I think.

    @CN – No judgement here! I’m consistently amazed that anything at all decides to stay alive in our neglected little balcony garden.

  9. @CN – Interesting. Sounds like they’re the local continental near-equivalents of each other, like cranberries and preiselbeeren.

  10. Hey there! I just randomly stumbled over to your blog and glad I did. I am an expat who lives in Germany too, well at least for most of the year :)
    I have always seen and wondered about Bärlauch, but never brave enough to try and cook with. One of these days :)
    TexaGermaNadian recently posted..Raving About Ravensburg

  11. @TexaGermaNadian – Thanks for stopping by! Love the name. Now go try some bärlauch. :)

    @Sonya – Thanks.

    @Em – This is definitely becoming a regular feature – next wacky food coming up in a few days! And I hadn’t even thought of Waldmeister yet. So, so many.

  12. *gasp* Whilst I was in London last week a friend was banging on and on about how amazing fresh wild garlic is. I am totally excited to discover that’s what Barlauch is, it’s all over our market and I had no idea that’s what it was – thank you!! :)
    Frau Dietz recently posted..Dienstag Morgen Ablenkung

  13. I’m not a big fan of green leafy anything. In the season though, this gets into everything it seems. I even had hidden under the bread on a butter pretzel a while back. Here they use it a lot in it’s cut form, just sprinkled or heaped on things. Again, not a fan of green so I avoid most of it.
    Andrew recently posted..Twilight Icecream in Italy

  14. Yes barlauch is a prized seasonal natural green herb of Central Europe. Barlauch announces springtime is a big way and is enjoyed in and on many foods. I’ve heard is helpful with hypertension. Purchased “dried barlauch” while in Germany and would like to know of where to acquire in the states?
    Hmmmm spargel & barlauch in springtime!

  15. Hi, neighbors. I just found your site while looking up Bärlauch to describe it to a friend in the U.S. We are also expats living in Germany (Bavaria), since 2007. I’ll bookmark your site to return to it later, as it looks very interesting. (It also displays very nicely, by the way. I just started my own travel blog and notice clean, uncluttered pages!)
    Mach’s gut!

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