When I was in Belgrade in the beginning of April, I made a point to walk the Skadarlija Market everyday. Mostly to wander around and marvel. Off to the side were the more local Serbian farmers who had more or less the same produce on display. Many leafy greens that I did not recognize and almost did not dare to purchase due to social anxiety (the language barrier made it difficult to communicate) and a lack of an adventurous culinary spirit. Eventually, I managed to get my airbnb host, Danilo, to explain one particular beautiful green.
He called it sremuš (or bear’s garlic, in english – because, according to folklore, this is what a bear coming out of hibernation would gorge on), explaining that it’s gathered in the mountains and is known for it’s health properties. According to Herbs-Treat and Taste, this plant has been used as a spring tonic (I <3 seasonally-bound tonics) to cleanse the blood and boost the immune system.
I bought myself a bunch and have mostly been chopping it up in my eggs for my Belgrade breakfasts. Unbeknownst to me, is this wild garlic/garlicky green rare in the Netherlands and Belgium and is, according to the Plantengids, a protected species! Lynn from Beneath the Bracken mentions that it is also forbidden to pick it in parts of Germany. Have I had known, I would’ve made a point to have consumed much more. Otherwise, I am left with garlicky Balkan-in-the-spring memories.
Image source: Schauer, T., Caspari, C. (1979). Plantengids: Beschrijving van meer dan 1500 plantesoorten in West-Europa. Den Haag: uitgeversmaatschappij Tirion. #1 = Bear’s Garlic.
I did get a tip from a local about where I can gather my own bear’s garlic/’daslook’. Unfortunately, the green is often confused with lily of the valley -> a poisonous plant. I am hoping that the lack of mountains in the low-lying lands may prevent this confusion?
Image source: Schauer, T., Caspari, C. (1979). Plantengids: Beschrijving van meer dan 1500 plantesoorten in West-Europa. Den Haag: uitgeversmaatschappij Tirion. #1 = Lily of the Valley.