It’s early April. Take a stroll through the woods around Deer Park and a powerful scent of garlic permeates the air. This sensory delight might re-awaken your ancient hardware of smell, much dulled after society’s transition from hunting and foraging to farming. The arrival of wild garlic in spring would have pleased our ancient ancestors as it was a sign that, in the cycle of the seasons, cold would soon give way to warmth, scarcity to plenty.
Wild garlic is one of the natural treasures of this peninsula, and it is an ancient treasure; it was celebrated by people in Howth long ago. A 14th century Irish poem by an unknown author, translated by Kenneth Jackson in his book "A Celtic Miscellany", refers to Howth as:
the hill of swordsmen, full of wild garlic and trees,
the many-coloured peak, full of beasts, wooded.
Though swordsmen are few in Howth today, we are fortunate that wild garlic still flourishes here. Howth remains a splendid place for our senses. As a native plant, we can presume that even long before the 14th century, the first scent of wild garlic in spring was a time of hope and promise for the people on the peninsula. Wild garlic is commonly known as ramsons, or creamh in Irish. In April and May, white star-shaped flowers will blossom on its long spear-shaped leaves. Embrace this transient gift of spring and seek out the wild garlic whilst it thrives. If you miss the opportunity, it will be another ten months before the aroma of garlic begins to glide down the woodland trails again.