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curly wild onions in soil and graphic text "Foraging and Using Wild Onions"

Wild Onions: Foraging and Using

They can look pretty weird; I’m not going to lie. Weird and fascinating. I know they sure caught my eye the first time I noticed the curly cue tendrils of wild onions jutting out of the ground.

As I write, I’ve already made my first “shopping trip” through my yard snipping wild onion stalks and dandelion leaves. Soon my wild violets will be blooming. As I roam around, filling my colander, I can’t help but think that these edibles are some sort of peace offering for enduring the cold dormancy of winter.

Wild onions are loaded with flavor.

Identification

Pinch off a stalk and sniff it. Immediately, you’ll know it’s in the onion family. If, however, you don’t smell anything at all- stay away.

Wild onions are kind of garlicky, kind of chive-y. (Chive-y. Write that down. It’s new.) They look like chives, in fact. They grow from bulbs, and spread via the bulblets they produce at the top of their stalks after flowering. They’re similar to “walking” onions in this way. 

 

Wild Onion bulblets and flowers

click for image source

The whole plant is edible; bulb, stalk, flower, and bulblets. I tend to use just the stalks, myself. The stalks are hard to miss amidst the spring grasses. At least around here they are. Grass, finally recovered from the trauma of winter’s brutal cold, might only be a few inches tall. Yet wild onion stalks- straight or curled, stand a good 4 inches (or more) above them. They’re almost waving at you to be picked.

Wild onions, grass and dandelion flower

See? High above the grass.

 

I prefer them young and tender. Perhaps this is because that’s the only time I can get them. Soon, Prince Charming will mow, and my window of opportunity will lay on the ground waiting for me to rake it up into a pile. The man finds it a little odd that I grocery shop among the weeds.

What can I say? They’re free, fresh, and tasty. Not to mention nourishing. Foraging satisfies my inner hippie.  Prince Charming, on the other hand, has no inner hippie. (I know, I know! Poor man…) Thankfully, he’s a good sport about the meals I make for him. He’s learned it’s better not to ask too many questions.

If you’re at all unsure about identifying the plant, or if you’d just like some expert information, read through this article here. Green Dean is a man in the know. I easily get lost in his website. His articles are fun to read, and full of information, recipes, and tidbits.

A curly wild onion plant in sandy soil

Not all stalks are curly. Some are slightly curled, others are straight.

Harvesting & Storing

Harvesting this herb is easy. Either snip off what you want with a clean pair of shears, or dig up the little bulb. Sometimes they pull easily out of the ground. However, the stalks usually just snap off, leaving the bulb still in the soil.

Be sure to leave them be if you only find a few. If your area is loaded with these plants- then dive right in. A general rule of thumb for foraging is to harvest up to one third of the stand. In other words, leave two thirds of what you find. And please, friend- be certain you’re not harvesting in an area that has been sprayed with anything that could make you sick. Always, always wash them well before you use them.

If I’m going to use mine very soon, I’ll rinse them right away. (The sooner you use them, the better they are.) I may store them in the fridge for the next morning’s  breakfast- leaving the dirt right where it is for the time being. We don’t spray our yard, so I don’t have to worry about chemicals. I do, however, have to think of the critters that run through.

I store my herbs by loosely covering them in a damp paper towel and placing it in a resealable plastic bag. I make sure to leave the bag partially unsealed. This way, they stay hydrated without getting mushy. Use them within a few days.

Using Wild Onions

I love to pair them with fresh dandelion greens. They are great in fresh salads, or sauteed and added to eggs. I have mixed them with other herbs to flavor simple homemade soft cheeses.

They are wonderful with grilled salmon, added to baked potatoes, and stirred into vegetable dishes. Wild onions are a pretty versatile ingredient. You won’t run out of ideas for using them.

 

Wild onions and title graphic "Foraging and Using Wild Onions

Well, I hope you’re convinced. If you have any of these yummy corkscrews growing nearby, grab your scissors, get outside and gather some for your next meal.  Make the neighbors talk, and your inner hippie sing. (Come on. You do have an inner hippie, right?) I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.

~m

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