Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Can I Eat Those Onions in My Yard?

Green life among the brown debris

Now that spring has finally arrived, things are starting to green up. Looking at most lawns, you just see brown grass, but many lawns, roadsides, and open fields will be filled with clusters of tall, thin leaves of field garlic. The leaves are thin and hollow, looking just like chives. If you pick some and give them a smell, it has a strong onion odor. Some of the larger, tougher leaves have ridges that run along the length of the leaf that you can see and feel like corduroy  If you dig under the clump, you'll find some small, white bulbs, often with smaller cloves on the sides. Eventually, at the top of the strongest leaf stalks, a small cluster of bubils will form, along with small, purplish-pink flowers.

The field garlic we find most often is Allium vineale, originally from Europe. All parts of the field garlic are edible when young, the leaves will be most tender when smaller, and the bulbs taste best before the plant makes flowers later in spring. Even the small, pretty flowers can be added as an edible flower to salads. We snip the clusters of leaves with scissors and use them raw like chives in cottage cheese or breads, and add them to soups for onion flavor. The bulbs are too small to cook with like an onion, and some people find their stronger flavor undesirable  I suppose you could clean them and crush them like garlic bulbs, but we like to just sprinkle them with salt and olive oil, and toss them on the grill until they are tender and lightly charred.

Grilled onions, great on sandwiches
Many who care for their lawns find the field garlic to be a nuisance and will apply weed killers and try to dig up the clumps of bulbs. Field garlic spreads by itself easily by the underground bulbs and by the falling bubils after the plant flowers. 

If you are eating your yard onions, make sure no pesticides or herbicides have been applied to the lawn. Avoid gathering your yard onions from the edge of the road due to car fumes and salt contamination. If you have a dog, it is best to get your field garlic from somewhere else. Otherwise, enjoy one of spring's first green vegetables while you wait for the season to progress and the ramps come out!

Cleaned and ready to be used


Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

Looks delicoius!

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

That looks sooo good! I've never seen these here in my woods in MN, but we used to find them in IL. We still have quite a bit of snow and I am chomping at the bit to find some green.

Efective weed killer said...

Looks so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I think I have wild garlic but it could be wild onion - how do I tell the difference? Looks like your picture and definitely has the smell but the green part is not hollow more like a hard chive Thanks

Brunch At Tiffany's said...

I literally just found these in my backyard today, even with cold CT weather they survived well