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Ramsons; Wild garlic (Allium ursinum), fam. Alliaceae.
Bunches of young ramsons leaves are a typical attribute of March and April markets, trays, underground crossings in Kyiv. However, this plant is not usually grown in the city, and it is also not common in the forest surrounding DVRZ suburb. So it was quite amazing to find a small island of ramsons in one place of the forest, next to the chain of lakes. Apart from two dense groups of about 5 by 10 m size, where the plants are obviously linked together by a common rhizome, there are a few single exemplars around – probably, grown from the seeds. There are two moments in spring when ramsons can be easily noticed among the surrounding landscape. The first is when its leaves reach 10 cm, forming a little green grove, easily seen from afar, on a background of bare soil and dead fallen leaves. The second is one month later. Many other herbs form green carpet by that time; however, ramsons is recognized by umbels of white flowers, with sweet and pleasant smell, though not devoid of garlic tint. At the same time, many other species of Onion bloom, as well as Bird Cherries (Hackberries) – the plant which name is almost similar to ramsons in Russian and Ukrainian, but has actually nothing in common with it. There is a famous Ukrainian song "Cheremshina" – which of those plants is it about? Maybe, both?
Phytoncides and biologically active substances of ramsons have antibacterial, antiparasitic, diuretic and tonic properties. Its nutritional value is mostly alike onion and garlic greens. However, according to general rules, wild plants are often more nutritious – they grow in a clean and natural environment, they are never treated with fertilizers and pesticides, and they are obliged to be strong enough to survive the competition for the place under the sun.
At first look, the ramsons leaves are similar to Lily of the valley, which is known to be poisonous; but it is not very easy to confuse them. Ramsons appear one or one and a half months earlier; they grow in bunches of 5-10 leaves (while lily of the valley has only 2). And finally – ramsons emit a characteristic onion or garlic smell if rubbed or even just touched. Of course, ramsons (wild garlic) should be consumed in moderation, especially by people with digestive system inflammation or pregnant women. When ramsons start to bloom, their leaves already become tough and dust-covered, so their season lasts only 1-2 months.