The arrival of this mild oniony garlicky herb at the market is one of the signals of the beginning of spring in Berlin. Before moving to Berlin I’d never seen nor heard of Bärlauch, as it’s called here, but I’ve come to look forward to making a few meals with it every spring.
The English name for allium ursinum, whose bulbs are a favourite of the brown bear, is ramsons. I’m going to go ahead and just call it bärlauch here. In German, many allium are called -lauch; the word is clearly related to the English leek.
Bärlauch was known to the Germanic peoples and Celts as a vegetable and medicinal plant and, as pointed out in the German Wikipedia entry, has been experiencing a Renaissance the last few years. Bärlauch is added to soups and salads, used to make pesto and flavour cheese, and most recently wilted as a side-dish for ostrich stroganoff.
Aside: On Friday while walking through the park, there was a distinct oniony aroma in the air. My first thought was that it was bärlauch but none was in sight. A little digging confirmed that the plant with narrow leaves carpeting the area was responsible. A little research once I was home turned up allium paradoxum or few-flowered garlic (in German Wunderlauch, Berliner Bärlauch or Seltsamer Lauch) also an until recently forgotten herb. Edible and can be used just like bärlauch. Huh.
At the market the other day I bought my first bärlauch of the season planning on making walnut pesto with it. The pesto hasn’t been made yet but I did use a few leaves spur of the moment on gorgonzola and pear toasts I was preparing.
The toasts: slices of multigrain bread spread with gorgonzola, topped with whole bärlauch leaves and sliced pears, drizzled with olive oil and honey with a dash of salt and pepper, roasted in the oven.
On the first bite I marveled, the bärlauch added the perfect touch of onion and garlic flavour that raised the tastiness of the toasts up an unexpected notch. I could have eaten 20, although sadly there were not that many. My only complaint was that I didn’t quite get the bread crispy enough. A dish definitely to be repeated.
Tomorrow however, I’m going to get to that pesto.