Photo: Wiki Commons by: Illustratedjc

Vastly popular among Hungarians, medvehagyma, or bear leek, is the perfect addition to your next spring meal.

Bear leek (allium ursinum), also known as wild garlic, ramsons, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, or bear’s garlic, is a bulbous perennial flowering plant that flowers in spring.

Photo: WikiCommons- by Daniel Kraft

The term derives from the fact that brown bears like to eat the bulbs of the plant and dig up the ground to get at them, much like wild boar.

Belonging to the amaryllis family, this wild relative of onion is native to Europe and Asia. Bear leek grows in moist, deciduous woodlands. This plant prefers slightly acidic conditions.

Both the bulbs and leaves of bear’s leak are edible. This ingredient is often added to salads, sauteed or pureed as a vegetable, or used as a herb. 

Try this cream soup recipe: Puree the raw washed leaves with a dash of course salt, extra virgin olive oil, fresh cream, and Grana Padano. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes afterwards, and serve with freshly ground black pepper and fresh Parmesan. Extra: add fresh mozzarella for additional flavour.

You can also add bear leek to Hungarian nokedli, grízgaluska (semolina dumpling), or krumpli gomboc (potato dumpling) recipes. Additionally, you can use it as a herb when making Hungarian pogácsa, which is a kind of crunchy scone.

You can even start your day with this delicate herb by putting it in your omelette or in your pancakes for a particularly savoury treat. 

Also of note is that the leaves are sometimes used as fodder. Cows that feed on bear leek give milk a taste with a hint of garlic. Butter made from this kind of milk was quite popular in 19th-century Switzerland.

In Hungarian folk medicine, this plant is used for detoxification, as well as for relief in terms of digestion issues. It gives you a good appetite, strengthens your immune system, lowers your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, regenerates the liver and the stomach, and it even has antibiotic effects. 

But be careful – bear leek is very similar to several poisonous plants, such as Lily of the Valley. 

Incredibly healthy and full of flavour, bear leek is the perfect addition to a Sunday meal. 

For traditional Hungarian recipes, check out:

4 traditional Hungarian főzelék recipes + VIDEOS

5+1 traditional Hungarian soups with recipes – VIDEOS


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