Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum) is the name often used for this bulb. But it is not a garlic and is actually a leek and very closely related to both Kurrat or Egyptian Leek (Allium ampeloprasum var. kurrat) and the usual common Leek (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum) that we all know. Garlic (Allium sativum) is a completely separate species and has a distinctly different taste.
Wild Leek bulbs taste more blandish and ‘earthy’ or ‘mushroomy’ and as it has large individual cloves you can eat it more directly like you would a vegetable than use it as a flavouring. It roasts well and can also be cut up and fried or sautéed lightly to bring out the more garlic like characteristics. It can be used like a leek in dishes too – and makes an interesting base to use for a soup for example.
I have seen them often sold in supermakets as Garlic.
This bulb grows in a very similar way to the usual Garlics and Leeks and is a very strong and reliable plant as long as it does not get flooded/water affected during the last bulbing stage while it is flowering. Like Garlics you can increase the bulb size by removing the flower scape when it comes up. The flower scapes can grow to about 2 metres or more high.
Otherwise it grows pretty much like a leek or garlic plant through the same Autumn to early summer period. It likes manure and a good moist deep soil if it can get it – but will also thrive on neglect and fairly average soil.
The bulbs send off small additional corms at the base which will grow into full sized plants the following season. This is often how you can tell them apart from Garlics visually when you pull them f rom the ground. Also the flowers are fully large spherical flowers and rarely have any little bulbils growing in amongst them – and the covering sheath drops off completely – whereas Garlics usually have their sheath staying partly attached even till they die back. Sometimes they make single clove heads and can be quite huge in this form.
Like garlic it’s best to taste first and select a good flavoured cultivar before committing to growing it.
Here you can see a small line of flowering Wild Leeks growing in a patch of other vegetables.