Bärlauch grows from little bulbs in spring, a little like the wild onion-weed plants, but with a finer tulip-style leaf.  And if you know the onion-weed, you can imagine the smell of bärlauch. Here, it bursts out on the seasonal menus as vigorously as it does on the forest floor – so vigorously there that I’ve seen this tender shoot speared right through a dried leaf.

A prolific patch for picking

The taste is oniony/garlicky – and it appears for a brief season as soup, in noodles, in

A bee appreciates the oniony-garlicky flavour

meat-balls, in almost everything that could possibly carry its distinctive flavour.

As I write this, Mani is processing the batch we picked yesterday. He has blanched it, and is chopping it fine to put in his famous Knöpfli – very delicate meatball he makes to his grandmother’s recipe.

I’ve planted some in our little lawn, for a “marker” of the season

Our wild gathering was done in the forest on the other side of the Alter Rhein.  The Alter Rhein – the old Rhine – is the residual part of the river left after the New Rhine was channelled out to the lake, Bodensee or Lake Constance, as a flood-control measure.

The Old Rhein, with last year’s Schilff grass glowing in the sun

On one side is Switzerland, where we have our little holiday house in Altenrhein. On the other is Austria. Between, the Alter Rhein forms both the border, and a nature reserve full of wild-fowl.  The border was once meaningful.  Mani and his friends had fierce stone-and-insult-throwing battles with Austrian boys during the war.  Now, cycle-ways run along either side, and we often bike up one side, over the bridge, and down the other to the forest where there’s a summer-time café, and a great swimming spot.

not-so-wild fowl

Postscript:   Bärlauch translates as bear-leek  –  and I love the idea of bears happily snuffling about getting their greens in spring.   No bears around here  –  but there’s a Swiss conversation about co-existense with the large wild animals, as bears, wolves and lynxes are re-establishing territories where sheep now graze.


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