It’s Sunday afternoon. The fresh air invites for a walk. On the meadow, there are young families sitting on their picnic blankets. While the adults try to catch the first warm sunbeams, at the playground the children are turning a big metal spiral and are happy that after the long winter, water flows down again. Wet sand gives more possibilities for their creative fantasy…
We go on in the woods. Ducks quarrel very loudly, trees are reflected on the water surface, their branches are full of buds. Soon, they will shoot the fireworks of their green leaves. On the ground, we can see small blue violets and some other yellow flowers. And all around, a mass of green leaves of wild garlic (Allium ursinum).
If you think that we went for a walk somewhere outside the city, you are wrong. We are still in Vienna, in the city, in the 2nd district, in Prater! Those who have visited Vienna already may imagine just merry-go-rounds and cotton candy under the word Prater. However, some centuries ago, it used to be an imperial private hunting ground accessible to the court and the upper nobility only. It was Emperor Joseph II who opened the park to “everyone to use it openly and freely” in 1766 (but hunting continued until 1920!). In its north-west part, an amusement park was built soon – the Wurstelprater – as it is called by Viennese. Nevertheless, a large green public park between the Danube river and Danube Canal remains until today.
When spring comes to Vienna, many Viennese head to the Prater park, not only to take a walk. We met also people jogging, cycling and even riding a horse. And we could also see some people crouching among the trees. They were all collecting wild garlic. This plant is very popular in Austria. It is permitted to harvest but in a proportionate amount for your own consumption only. And you should harvest it carefully, not the whole plant. It is necessary to leave some leaves for the plant to be able to regenerate.
Most people make a pesto from the plant which can be added to any dish. My recipe is the following:
Wild Garlic Pesto
Wash wild garlic thoroughly and wipe it dry with a paper kitchen towel. Place it in a food processor with some oil and salt. Mix it, then add pine nuts and cheese according to your taste (I add 2 tsp nuts and 1,5-2 tsp cheese for one machine portion). Fill the pesto in a glass, pour oil over it and store the glass in the refrigerator. It can be stored like that for several months but we eat it much earlier 🙂 .
Potato Pancakes with Wild Garlic
½ kg potato
150 g bun from the previous day
2 tbsp whipping cream
150 cheese grated
wild garlic pesto (or chopped fresh)
Cut the bun into small pieces and sprinkle it with whipping cream. Cook potatoes and after chilling smash them with a fork. Add bun pieces, eggs and cheese, flavour with salt and pepper, add pesto according to your taste and mix all ingredients properly. Leave for about 1 hour. Form small pancakes from the dough and fry them in hot oil from both sides.
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Going to the Prater for Wild Garlic
The starting point is the Lusthaus, a rotunda building at the end of Prater Avenue, first mentioned in 1560 as a hunting lodge. It was heavily damaged during World War II and after that restored to its 18th-century shape.
Today, it is a coffee house and restaurant. If you come by car, you can park here and walk along the meadow with a playground or take the Aspernallee street to the Church Maria Green (what a perfect name for this surroundings!) – see the three stars on the map below.
The best month to harvest wild garlic is March, which is usually the period of Lent so the religious collectors can use the walk to slow down by a prayer in the church or at one of the chapels of the Way of the Cross in this pilgrimage place. You can get here also by bus 77A, plan your route: here (put Wien Lusthaus/Aspernallee as your destination).
If you prefer to go to the amusement park, more information in English: here
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri