Cornwall ON – We’ve all seen them on the side of the road. Lines of bottles sitting in rows, with their signs written in black marker on a scrap piece of
cardboard, all the while either oblivious or apathetic to the fact that their profits come at the cost of a species that carries a special
significance to Canadian culture. What they are selling is the bulbs from the Allium Tricoccum plant, or wild garlic.
To truly understand the damage they are causing we need to understand this tasty plant. Allium Tricoccum grows in the moist rich soil
of deciduous forests under a canopy of beech, maple, oak, and/or poplar and are nearly impossible to cultivate in a home garden,
leading them to be sought in their ‘wild’ environment. The bulbs ripen in the early spring, before the plant has a chance to flower and,
as such, means that harvesting essentially kills the plant before it has the opportunity to propagate. Because of this, most, ‘traditional’
pickers will often leave between 25 and 50% of a cache behind, allowing the remaining plants to re-populate the area for the next
Unfortunately, for the plant (and for us),poachers, tend to harvest the entire plant population, destroying any future growth in
My own father is a ‘traditional’ picker and would make this treck into the forest, to his own small patch of wild garlic to bring home for
the rest of the family, often donating a few bottles to the local nursing homes. In doing so, though, he was careful to ensure that he
always left behind enough plants so that he could return the next year and reap an equally sized harvest. This year, however, was
different. The entire patch was gone, with the only evidence being a pile of leaves left from the plants and an unusual homemade hoe
that was used to reap, or rather rape the harvest. Nothing will grow back there next year.
Quebec once saw the same devestating harvest of these plants and so enacted laws to protect the species. A person may possess
up to 200 grams of bulbs for personal consumption per year and prohibits any commercial transactions of Allium plants. Unfortunately,
these poachers are finding a commercial niche in Ontario, where no such laws exist, and they are free to sell to unsuspecting
consumers in roadside stalls.
The future of wild garlic is at risk, if we don’t act to protect the species now. The first step is to deny poachers of a market by not buying
their ill gotten loot on the streets, then enacting laws, in Ontario, to ensure that they don’t have an outlet for marketing their wares. We
cannot and should not support them by buying poached bulbs on the streets. Please write to your local MPP now, before it’s too late
and a great Canadian tradition becomes only a memory.