The riverside forest of Leipzig offers many wild garlic. Since some people remove it from the forest in large quantities, the wild garlic patrol is out there.

Illustration showing a person picking vegetables in a basket

From the forest to the basket, but only a handful, please. Photo: Jeong Hwa Min

LEIPZIG taz | Here in the Leipzig floodplain forest, the white, blooming landscape between the trees seems to go on forever. The sun shines through the treetops and casts a cheerful mix of light and shadows on the forest floor. A little robin skips down a path, his fellow robins chirping invisibly from all directions.

The deeper you go into the forest, the more intense the aroma of the plants becomes. It is the unmistakable smell of wild garlic, which is currently experiencing its flowering season. Except for a few isolated, bare spots on the ground and the paths used by joggers and cyclists, fields of wild garlic stretch as far as the eye can see deep into the forest.

Depending on the region, the wild garlic season begins in mid-March and ends in early May. In April the plant begins to bloom, like in the Leipzig riverside forest. As the flowers bloom, the leaves slowly lose the intensity of their flavor.

Searching for wild garlic bandits

With an area of ​​5,900 hectares, the Leipzig riparian forest is one of the largest areas of riparian forest in Central Europe. The Elsterflutbett, Pleiße and Luppe flow through the forest. Some people travel down rivers in kayaks. Beautiful, almost untouched nature in the middle of the city: pure relaxation for the inhabitants of Leipzig.

However, for the Leipzig police, during the wild garlic season, the riverside forest becomes a crime scene, because the riverside forest is also a hidden treasure. Wild garlic thieves are especially active in the months of February and March. They steal wild garlic bulbs with the leaves from the forest by the sackful, even by the tons. It is prohibited to dig up the tubers, as this can damage the protected plants. This is considered an environmental crime. Officially, you can take a handful of leaves home. And in the nature reserves, which also exist in the riverine forests, collecting nothing is not allowed.

Thefts go far beyond the hand bouquet rule. Last year, Leipzig police confiscated almost a ton illegally collected.

Large thefts of wild garlic also occur in other parts of Germany. But in Leipzig they were so extreme that the police created their own bicycle patrol to track down the wild garlic bandits. Also this year some forests were cut down. The fines range between 25 and 2,500 euros. In especially serious cases, wild garlic can cost up to 10,000 euros. The perpetrators are usually of Russian origin. The reason: In Russia, the wild garlic bulb is considered a delicacy.

According to the Leipzig police, the patrol over wild garlic is no longer as intensive. The big thefts take place before the wild garlic blooms and loses its flavor.

Expensive organic products from the supermarket

A wheelchair user travels a slightly wider path in the floodplain forest. She looks to the side of the road and talks to her presumed husband, who is bent over with a paper bag in his hand. She wears a black beret, dark sunglasses and a white beard. Is this what real wild garlic thieves are like?

This text comes from Laborable day. Our left-wing weekly! Every week, wochentaz is about the world as it is and how it could be. A left-wing weekly with a voice, attitude and a special vision of the world. New every Saturday on newsstands and of course by subscription.

None: They both came to the forest to collect nettles. April is the perfect time to get especially fresh leaves. Like wild garlic, you can carry it with you in small quantities for personal use.

A few meters from the Auwald, in the south of Leipzig, there is a Lidl branch. With a quantity, of course, of legally picked wild garlic in my backpack, I head to the produce section. There are some beautifully selected wild garlic leaves in a small box wrapped in plastic. On the package it is written “100 grams of organic wild garlic from Germany”. The papers cost 1.99 euros. An amount that is perhaps enough for half a serving of pesto. Laughing, I walk past the plastic vegetables to the checkout and buy a bottle of water.

When I get home, I turn on the mixer. But first I wash the garlic peppers with hot water. It should be 60 degrees to avoid possible fox tapeworm. A few pine nuts are fried, my half-dried basil plant is picked, the expensive olive oil is sacrificed and thrown into the blender along with the garlic garlic.

Now the whole kitchen smells of wild garlic. What better! A bit of riverside forest in your own home.

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