The flowering mountain of Kinnekulle is a mecca for anyone interested in plants and gardening. This is where the King of Flowers, Hannu Sarenström, is the first to welcome spring from his farm in Hällekis; together with his Labrador Aile and the area’s trendiest spring bulb – Wild Garlic!
Hannu Sarenström – gardener, author and source of inspiration when it comes to food & gardens, was born in Gothenburg, but moved to Kinnekulle in the Västergötland Region in 1989, where he lives next door to the impressive Läckö Castle. He became popular in 2013, when he appeared in the television show ”Trädgårdskampen” (The Garden Battle) where he was one of three judges. Hannu has since written approximately ten gardening and cookery books, and won a number of awards. When the wild garlic spreads across the area in spring, Hannu sees this as the starting point for a new season of green fingers, muddy shoes, colourful flowers and flavoursome dinners.
What is your relation to wild garlic?
– This wonderful wild herb grows just around the corner from me and is the first to come up in the spring – and the best! It is green, fresh and very tasty. It only grows in a small number of places in Sweden; the counties of Blekinge/Skåne (protected in some areas), on the island of Gotland, in small, local colonies – and here on Kinnekulle, where it is the most abundant, tastes the best and at its most beautiful, Hannu laughs.
Wild garlic is such an amazing plant that we have now created the event Wild Garlic Day that will take place on the 24 May at Munkängarna on Kinnekulle. At the event, I will sing the praises of wild garlic and Stefan and Miriam Johansson, the couple behind the restaurant Forshems Gästgivargård, will serve a delicate wild garlic soup. There will be lots of activities for all ages and everyone is very welcome! During the period 14 May – 15 June we also offer convenient packages that include comfortable accommodation, gourmet food flavoured with wild garlic and activities in beautiful natural surroundings.
What type of habitat does wild garlic need?
– Here on Kinnekulle, we have a soil that is rich in calcium and oak and beech forests that stretch for miles, where this spring bulb carpets the ground in swathes of glorious green and fills the air with its pungent aroma – a spring welcome gift for all the senses.
The wild garlic turns the ground instantly green. This is then followed by a shower of white star-shaped flowers – so beautiful! A nice way to experience this is to take the Kinnekulle Train which travels through miles of meadows covered in wild garlic. Open the window and you will be hit by its aromatic scent, which could be described as ‘garlic light’ – ahhh, wonderful!
Even though it flowers everywhere in our region during May and June, this is still an exclusive product that fetches almost 700 SEK/kilo at well-stocked markets. However, I believe the wild garlic sold there is delivered from Gotland, Hannu adds. Visitors who have never before tasted our wild garlic are always delighted to make its acquaintance and usually say something like:
– Hand me a spade so I can dig some up to take home, ha ha ha…
Tasty ingredient that can be grown
If you want to grow wild garlic at home, you need to add lime to a humus-rich soil; bone meal, mussel shells or some other source of calcium – ask your local garden centre for advice.
A clever way to grow wild garlic (if you are not using pallet collars or similar) is in your flowerbeds, among the perennials. According to Hannu, the rest of the plants in the bed hide the wild garlic when it dies down after flowering in the spring. If it likes the spot it will spread and you will have new flavoursome herbs each spring.
– If you sow the seeds before the summer, the plants can be harvested the following year. If you prefer a quicker result, ready-grown plants are now available. Convenient!
– Wild garlic has a slightly different flavour from regular garlic but there is still some resemblance, Hannu explains. You could liken it to green and white asparagus, where both varieties taste of asparagus but in different ways. This aromatic ingredient works very well in soups, pies and salads, but my recommendation is to try one of my green mixes made with wild garlic, flat leaf parsley, rapeseed oil, a little salt and pepper – perhaps some basil too.
Take 3-4 leaves of wild garlic and the same amount of parsley and basil.
Mix with oil until creamy (not runny).
Season according to taste
Serve with seasonal meat dishes or grilled fish – simple and tasty!
3 tips if you are visiting Kinnekulle in the spring:
The wild garlic, obviously – this is something you simply must not miss!
The Vänern Region’s generous supply of ingredients from lake, forest and farm, and all the fun activities.
The top of the hill – with amazing views that beat most experiences!
Finally, Hannu shares his personal motto with all gardening enthusiasts:
– Never too little! Don’t be afraid to try, and when you do, go for it.
Wild garlic – facts
In Sweden, wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is comparatively rare. It is available in May-June on wooded meadows and in woodland, where it covers large areas. The white petals are arranged in a star shape which includes several flowers and the leaves are broad and pointed, green and shiny. They are similar to the leaves of Lily of the Valley. Wild garlic has a characteristic onion scent that is obvious from a long way away when the winds let us know that this spring bulb has finally arrived. They need limey, moist and humus-rich soil and are protected in some parts of Blekinge.
Text: Mikael Almse
Photo: Monica Manowska, Jesper Anhede