Tender wild garlic leaves have been populating forests and gardens since February. In March, the green leaf shoots of the autumn crocus were added and now the first tips of the lily of the valley are showing.
At first glance, the leaves of the trio look damn similar. The crux of the matter: While wild garlic is edible and a coveted ingredient in spring cooking, lily of the valley and autumn crocus are really poisonous.
Therefore, it is important to know the differences between the coveted spring herb and its seeming doubles.
“With wild garlic, the leaves sprout first. The flowering shoots only follow after six weeks. In the case of the lily of the valley, the stems of the bells come out of the earth with the leaves,” explains Stefanie Klein, author of the cookbook “Bärlauch”, which is published by the Swiss FONA publishing house.
When it comes to wild garlic, it is the garlic smell that counts
It is typical for wild garlic that it often grows over large areas, sometimes several hundred square meters in the forest and completely covers the ground.
“But the most characteristic thing is the smell: Only wild garlic leaves smell like garlic,” says the wild garlic expert. So if you think you’ve found wild garlic leaves, grate one of them. He then smells quickly whether he is right or not.
Photo gallery: The best recipes with wild garlic
You can recognize wild garlic leaves by these characteristics
Klein mentions other differences: While several leaves curl around each other in autumn crocus and lily of the valley, wild garlic leaves clearly show a single stalk.
In addition, with wild garlic leaves only the upper side of the leaf is shiny, the underside is matt. With lilies of the valley it is exactly the opposite.
The leaves of the autumn crocus are also much longer, reaching up to 40 centimeters. However, they like to thrive in places similar to wild garlic.
A good tip: its light pink, rarely white flowers only appear in autumn.
Autumn crocus poison can cause paralysis
According to the poison control center in Bonn, the autumn crocus is considered to be very poisonous. Symptoms appear after about two to six hours. Severe vomiting and massive diarrhea can then also lead to shock.
Paralysis and cardiovascular failure are possible.
German Press Agency (dpa)
Giftzentrale Bonn (2021): Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), retrieved on April 19, 2021: https://gizbonn.de/giftzentrale-bonn/pflanzen/herbstzeitlose-gemeine
Giftzentrale Bonn (2021): Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), retrieved on April 19, 2021: https://gizbonn.de/giftzentrale-bonn/pflanzen/maigloeckchen