Friday, February 18, 2011

Wild Edibles; Onions

While dandelions are kind of a no brainer in the foraging realm onions are less so. There are a couple species that look similar enough to lilies that tend to grow in the same places to cause problems. So this is one that is best taken to a plant expert for verification before you eat. They do smell like cultivated onions and it is possible to identify them by photos but the similar looking lily can be very toxic. Not something to take a chance on. A lot of locals call this variety "onion grass".

These grow wild over much of the San Francisco Bay area and, like dandelions, come up every year in our backyard. Not taking any chances, I uprooted a clump of them from root to blossom and took them to the botanical conservatory in Golden Gate park for positive identification and even then I used them sparingly until I was certain no one eating them was having an allergic reaction. These should be safe for anyone not normally allergic to onions.

So far I've used them cooked in egg dishes, added to both potato and onion soups and as a pizza topping. Ours don't get a lot of light and grow in a cool area but I have seen them at local farmers markets better than twice the size we have. The greens have a bit of bite but are more fragrant than flavorful and are very mild when cooked.

There are a number of varieties of wild onions across North America. So, it's probably worthwhile checking with a local wild plant expert to see if there are any in your area.

The next step for me will likely be cultivating these in containers. They've taken up residence in an old planter already and it's always nice to have some degree of control over the soil your plants grow in.

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