Look a bit closer. / by Robin

wildgarlicHello dear readers, it’s been a while since we’ve gotten around to writing a proper post but I felt it was time to pipe up and talk about a case of mistaken identity.Consult any book on wild herbs or foraging in Ireland and you can bet on finding ‘Wild garlic’, also known as ramsons or rather pleasingly: ‘bear’s garlic’ from its Latin name Allium ursinum. This herb has in recent years been embraced as the foodie enthusiast’s first step into foraged foods, guaranteed once a year to turn your instagram feed into a month-long green wall of homemade wild garlic pesto. Wild garlic is not a generic term for anything remotely leek-y picked in the wild. Lately I’ve come across a number of instances where foodies seem to think wild garlic is a term applied loosely to any spring herb with long, singular leaves and white flowers. (This would be why scientific nomenclature is helpful. Here is the RHS guide to how plant names work.) This lack of knowledge, or at least lack of clarification for their less informed followers by a handful of food bloggers has been rather unhelpful; at best it fouls the paddling pool that is the Irish foodie community with confusion and ignorance, at worst it instills people with baseless confidence in identifying which bits of the countryside are edible which, needless to say is a potentially treacherous path to go down.

It’s nice to have authority, it’s nice to have people ask you your opinion. For these reasons some food bloggers, particularly if they have large followings sometimes seem to feel this makes them an expert on their topic. There isn’t necessarily a correlation between popularity and knowledge so it’s necessary to keep a critical eye on anything you read on a blog/instagram/tweet. How reliable is this source of information? Do they have any references to back up their claims? This is a problem I often have with resources on gardening- less telling me about how magical your mulching techniques are, more scientific data please.

Of course I would also appeal to bloggers to consider the responsibility they have to their readership to make sure any facts you share are accurate and verifiable. That’s not to say mistakes are totally unforgivable, just have the good grace to declare you made a mistake and now have more accurate information. Unless you are an expert, don’t act like you are. If someone asks you a question and you’re not 100% sure you know the right answer, either do the research or refer them to someone who would know for sure. It’s ok to be wrong, you might actually learn something, which is surely the point of being an enthusiast in the first place.