IT'S the smell I noticed first. A heavy, pungent aroma that stopped me in my tracks. I was walking through Linn Park in Glasgow's suburban south side as I'd done thousands of times before, the usual sounds of dogs barking, children playing, the occasional burst of traffic. I wasn't expecting any surprises. But I got one anyway.

I took a deep breath. There was that smell again and it seemed to be coming from the deciduous woodland beside the banks of the White Cart. I stepped off the tarmac path. In front of me was a sea of green spears thrusting from the woodland floor, some with white star-like flowers. In this one small, shaded, damp patch, maybe twice the size of my living room, there must have been hundreds of plants. The smell, too, was stronger the closer I got.

Reaching down I crushed one of the flowers between my fingers and breathed in the glorious aroma and remembered a piece in the gardening pages of this very magazine a few weeks ago. So this was wild garlic, also known as Damsons or, more excitingly, Bear's Garlic. I popped a handful of leaves into my pocket and returned home, receiving a few quizzical looks from my fellow dog walkers and pushchair buggy pushers.

Back home, I washed the leaves, dried them and popped a small bit into my mouth. Raw, it was mellow but, unsurprisingly, unmistakeably garlicky. Delicious. Later, I chopped up a few stems and leaves and added them to a stir fry. I could swear it enlivened it. It's also popular in pestos, apparently. Maybe I'll try that next time.

It's got health giving qualities, too, and is a traditional spring tonic as it is thought to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and who doesn't need that?

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Now, picking a few bunches of garlic doesn't make me survival expert like Bear Grylls. I'm not going to start eating deer droppings or using a dead sheep as a sleeping bag but there is a thrill to discovering something new, especially now, when we are stuck in a holding pattern of lockdown and every day is much the same as the last. There is a joy, too, in making use of nature's harvest, as countless generations before us have done. Of being plugged into the seasons when all our other landmarks of time passing are denied to us.

Always forage responsibly. Take a few leaves, don't dig up the bulbs and leave plenty for wildlife.

Garry Scott

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