Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wild Edible/Medicinal: Wild Onion (Allium Canadense)

The spring brings with it wild edible season and one of my favorite wild edibles is wild onion. This is the perfect flavoring for any woods meal and really makes everything taste better when you lack salt/pepper/oldbay/hot sauce in the woods. So where can you find this plentiful wild edible? Wild Onion is a perennial plant native to eastern North America.

Read these other articles on Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants:  Queen Ann's Lace (LINK);  How to determine if a Plant is Edible (LINK), How to Make Pine Needle Tea (LINK); Winter Wild Edible Collection (LINK); Seven Eastern Woodland Trees Essential to Survival (LINK); Red Clover (LINK); List of Common Ailments w/ Cooresponding Wild Medicinal (LINK); Wild Edibles- Leeks a.k.a. Ramps (LINK); Wild Medicinal Squaw Root- The Key to Women's Wilderness Health (LINK);

                                         Plant Quick Facts:

Abundance: plentiful and often invasive
What is edible: bulbs, young stems/leaves
How to eat: raw or cooked as seasoning
Where is it found: open, sunny areas
When can it be found: all year, common in cool weather.
Nutritional Values: Vitamin C plus small amounts of other vitamins, minerals, some carbohydrates.
Other Uses: juice acts as a weak insect repellent (see also medicinal section below)
Dangers: There is a minimally toxic mimic of wild onion, which is called Crow's Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve). This plant look almost identical to a small wild onion but it lacks the onion/garlic smell when. Crushed Crow's Poison smell like grass whereas the wild onion smells like onion. The toxins in Crow's Poison are very weak, you would have to eat a pound of the plant just to get a bad stomach. 


Larger wild onion stems can become too tough to eat unless they are boiled or stewed for a long time, but they tough ones can be easily determined when harvesting. If they are tough to cut/break then they'll be tough during eating unless cooked a long time. Wild onions can be dried for later use but be warned, if you dry them in a dehydrator your whole house will smell like onions for days. This plant can cause gastroenteritis in young children who ingest parts of this plant. Chronic ingestion of the bulbs reduces iodine uptake by the thyroid gland, which can lead to problems. I will caution that eating more than a few dozen of these in a day and cause a few GI issues.

Great Resources For Identifying Wild Edibles/Medicinal Plants:

 Medicinal Uses:  
Wild onion was used medicinally by the Cherokee, Isleta, Kwakiutl, Makah, and Quinault Indians. The juice of the plant was given to children for hives and croup, as well as for colds and sore throat. A poultice of chewed plant parts was applied to the chest for pleurisy pains, croup, and otherwise applied externally for infections, sores and swellings. A poultice of warm onions was applied externally to throat for sore throat as well.

Bug Repellent:  
The juice of the plant has been used as a moth repellent. The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles. The juice can be applied to exposed skin in order to repel mosquitoes and other biting insects.

Recipes I Personally Use In The Woods:
1) Bear Creek Gumbo: Add four wild onions and scallions (chopped stem/leafs) to Bear Creek Gunbo (See My Review Here- LINK). Adding the wild onions and a little bit of freshly cooked fish to this gumbo make it a great and extremely filling back woods just-add-water and what you find style meal!

2) Backwoods Breakfast: Dried Eggs, Dried Bacon, Dried Milk, Dried Cheese, Wild onions and/or Ramps to taste. Best with Hot Sauce if you have it :)
3) What-ya-ma-call-it Wild Edible Stew:  This stew is what you make it throw in essentially any type of wild edible with water and bullion cube if you have them for a quick fulfilling stew. The stew above contains dandelion root, cattail shoot, wild asparagus and wild onions.

Not really a lot to say here.... Its one of the best tasting and useful wild edibles out there and can also help keep you free from misquotes bites all season long. Easy to identify and the only quasi poisonous look alike is extremely easy to identify by its lack of onion smell. So all that's left is for everyone to get out there, use it as a seasoning, eat it raw or add it to any meal you make in the woods. 

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