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When I was outside with my daughter on the swingset, I saw some wild onions growing up out of the pea gravel.  I’ve been watching these plants growing on our property each spring and have wanted to try eating them.  It looks like free food offering itself to us.  Today I did it and I share the results with you.

Are wild onions safe to eat?

I ate one, including the bulb and the attached greens.  I’m feeling good.

“Any plant that smells like an onion or a garlic and LOOKS like an onion or a garlic is edible. If you do not smell a garlic or an onion odor beware you might have a similar-looking toxic plant.”  Source:  eattheweeds.com.

There is an imposter that resembles the onion and garlic and it is poisonous.  What does the poisonous plant taste like?  “it would taste awful and bitter: a sure sign the plant is not meant to eat.”  Source:  foodunderfoot.com.

This is good news then.  Identifying wild onions seems fool-proof.  If you find a wild onion and you can smell the characteristic onion smell, then you’re good to start chomping down.  If you accidentally chomp down before smelling it, you should taste a difference and know something is not right and spit it out.

Onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots, including their wild forms, are all part of the Allium or onion genus.  They are very nutritous and can help keep you safe from cancers and heart disease.  The whole plant is edible.  whfoods.com has lots of good news for onions and how they might keep us healthy.

How I Ate the Wild Onions.

Since this is my first time trying this wild plant, I tried to keep it safe by eating just one wild onion.  Since I lived to tell the tale, I’ll harvest more wild onions next time I see them.

I took the wild onion, washed it in the sink, then chopped it up on a cutting board.

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And then I sprinkled all the pieces over my dinner.

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A recipe I would like to try:  Potato/Wild Onion Soup

What Do Wild Onions Taste Like?

I ate the wild onion raw.  The one I tried here in Arkansas, USA was mild.  My first bite reminded me of a low-strength garlic.  The greens were almost tasteless.  After dinner was over, I continued to sense an onion flavor in my sinuses and mouth.  The feeling lasted for about 12 hours, but my wife did not say anything so I guess it was not noticeable.  This characteristic compound is what acts like medicine, keeping us healthy, so I was happy to get some for free.  I believe it’s this lingering flavor that helps keep the head free of cancer and other disease.

Repay the Favor

I dug up some of the wild onions and transplanted them into my garden.  This is a way of giving a favor back to this plant by letting it reproduce and multiply on my property.

The onions have been tamed now that they are in my garden, so I’m not sure if I should continue calling them “wild”. I will let the onions grow in the garden all summer and I will save the seed from the best plants.  I would like to see how big the bulbs get in good soil.

I read that onions are good companion plants for tomatoes, helping to keep away pests like slugs and aphids, so that’s another plus.

Collecting Seed

Bulb Size

I think the onion bulbs growing in the ground would be bigger if you cut the tops before the seeds form.  Much of the plants energy is diverted to growing those seeds, which look like miniature onion bulbs.  Cut off the top before the flower and seeds form and you should get a bigger onion bulb.  The advantage to letting the plant make seeds is you can now have lots of seeds to grow this in a larger quantity in the fall.  I will probably plant many of the seed back into the garden this fall when I plant garlic.  We might eat some of the baby green onions in the winter or spring.  And I might let some of them grow with harvesting, to let them get bigger and make seed again.

Conclusion

I just found free food!  :-)   In my garden, I am growing chives, onions, and garlic, all at the same time.  Meanwhile this Allium variety is growing wild with no effort by me.   The wild variety probably offers a slightly different nutrition profile than the other varieties I am growing.  It’s good to eat a wide variety of plants.  I can add wild onions to my selection.



32 Comments

  1. Travis says:

    I’ve run across wild onions for years but have only gotten to the point of pulling them up and smelling them (because I like the way onions smell). Now I know I can actually use them and surprise my unsuspecting guests. Thanks for the information.

  2. Christine Rossi says:

    Hi! I have a bunch of green onions with huge bulbs up to 3-4 inches in diameter that keep giving birth to baby onions out of their sides. The leaves are green and grow real long, similar to flower bulbs. The stems get 3-6 feet tall with an ugly plume at the end of the stem. The blossoms give way to black seeds inside green pods. I was told that if this stem blossom oozes milky white when broken it’s poisonous, but if the ooze is clear, it’s not. I’m afraid to try to eat it, and even the produce guy at Stater’s couldn’t tell me if it was safe. Is there anyone out there that knows anything about this kind of onion? I would be so grateful for any information, especially if we can eat them. Produce is expensive these days. Thanks in advance for your assistance.

    Sincerely,
    Christine Rossi@verizon.net

  3. Earl says:

    Hi Christine, Those bulbs are a lot bigger than mine. I wonder if you see them above ground or only after digging them up.

    I can’t identify them for you conclusively, especially without seeing them. The best tip I have seen is that if you smell the characteristic onion smell, then it is safe. If you start eating it and you do not like the flavor, spit it out. I cannot promise that this advice will protect you in all cases, but my wild onion experience was a good one.

  4. Tom says:

    I’ve been reading several sites about this as I think it is a good source of food if done right. This site has the best info so far, I’ll add, ‘I think a lot of the “poisonous” notions come from all the chemicals used to perfect lawns and gardens’. I live on a rock, any grass grows brown in summer, withers and dies, no mowing and lo back in comes next year more profuse, works fine. Still trying to figure out if the bulbs I’m collecting and growing are wild onion or from a batch of garlic that I let seed a couple of years ago. Harder than you might think. Anyway it’s fun and I hope to try the eating next spring, haven’t done that yet, good advice about not tasting right spit it out.

  5. Earl says:

    Thanks, Tom. I agree with you that many people are applying poison to their land in their quest to have a homogeneous lawn with nothing but inedible grass. They might have regrets when a famine comes to their location and realize that grass isn’t worth much when they’re hungry. Personally, I enjoy the diversity of land that is allowed to grow as God intended. I like the surprises or free gifts. This year I found what looks like wild grapes growing in my yard! If I had sprayed poisons, I’m sure they would have died a long time ago.

    Good luck with the wild onions and garlic.

  6. Teresa Jewell says:

    I have eaten wild onions and chives for years…great additive to Italian meat sauce…or in anything else you would want an onion/garlic flavor. Mexican food rock with this great little gift.
    Do not be afraid of it. They almost disapear when cooked…but the flavor is wonderful.Just be careful where you pick…away from dog and cat poo and safe from chemicals..go to the woods..they are everywhere!Remember, everything was wild at one time or other…we just screwed with it.

  7. David says:

    I have seen these wild onions in my woods for years and have tried to get my friends and cousins to eat them but they have never tried because they said they might be poisionus but now I know they are safe to eat. I will probaly start a wild onion garden now!

  8. chris says:

    I like to sit in the field and pick the blades off the wild onions, and eat them then and there. Tastier than store bought. Takes a lot to fill u up. Makes GOOD soup! With beef stock or other vegetables and soy sauce. Does well with fish, too. But just sitting in the field is delightful.

  9. Bryanna says:

    I was wondering if anyone had some wild onion seeds I could purchase? I love the taste of them but can’t seem to find any where I just moved to?

  10. Brenda says:

    I’ve always wondered if wild onions are edible. Here in the south they grow in our lawns, our gardens, flowerbeds and anywhere they can put down a root. I’ve threatened for years to pull them up and add them to the pot roast, but never quite had the nerve. It always seemed logical to me that if it smelled like onion it must be okay to eat. Glad to know you have done well with your experiment. I think I will join you. My 13 year old grandson brought in a handful earlier today and asked me to add them to his salad. Now that I have read your article and a couple of others, I will do just that. Happy harvesting.

  11. Paulette Delk says:

    Here in Arkansas, these onions grow everywhere. Normally they will just break off and not come out of the ground without tools. but we had heavy rain last night so I tried on the biggest ones I could find in the moistest areas and Viola! They have a strong and spicy flavor and cook well in potatoes and other dishes but eating raw…whooooeeee spicy a bit for my belly and tongue.

  12. Jen says:

    Hi, my son just brought some of these in from the yard. (we do not use any chemicals on our lawn.)
    I researched to see if he could eat them, but in the pictures, I only see the green grass part of them being used. My son tossed that part out, and washed up the onion/ bulb looking part to eat.

    Is this right???

    Or are we only supposed to eat the green grassy part?? Or can we eat the white oniony part?
    They definitely smell like onions, by the way.
    Thanks!
    Thanks!

  13. Earl says:

    Hi, Jen, I definitely ate the white parts, too. They are just so small that they did not show up in the picture. I ate both the white and green parts. My wild onions are growing well here now, too, and I’ll be eating them again soon. :-)

  14. travis says:

    I have been keeping my eye open for ramps as I wander the woods this season looking for models. We found some of the little wild onions with the round leaves and brought some home. Fresh they were nice and oniony but after cooking they tasted like a very bitter nut. Hoping the ramps, or wild leeks we found today cook up better. Happy foraging!

  15. Earl says:

    Hi, Travis, I have never tried ramps and didn’t know about them until your comment, but I saw some pictures online. I wonder what you mean about looking for models in the woods.

    Since I am no expert, I wouldn’t eat any wild edibles if they were bitter.

    Foraging is fun. I’m eating wild onions again this spring. Had some the other day raw in a tuna fish sandwich.

  16. travis says:

    Ha! Teach me to try and look at things like this on my phone….was trying to type morels, as in the mushroom.

  17. Earl says:

    Morels: That makes much more sense. :-)

  18. The Del Rey's says:

    How are the onions doing? I hope they doing really well. I was wondering if you could email us back because we would love to hear from you. We have watched a lot of your shows. Lastly, do you have any animals in your house?
    Regards,
    Isabella and Brian Del Rey

  19. Earl says:

    Hi. The wild onions are growing bigger in the garden this year. The bulbs are bigger than when they were simply growing in the lawn, but they are still much smaller than conventional onions. I am letting many of the wild onions continue to grow in the garden. They are currently making their strange flower heads. Are you eating wild onions?

    We have two cats. If you are curious, you can see our cat eating dog food. :-)

  20. Linda Strong says:

    Hi I am human, and I have ate wild onions for years. These onions along with wild leek which is in the garlic family these ateable vegetables makes good gravy,dressing, and I have season steaks, I have also made a nice peper sauce to myriad chicken. Just try one raw with fish. Don’t knock the cook try her recipe.
    Love you guys.

    Linda

  21. Rick says:

    I have ate wild onions on several occasions. I have also ate a lot of ramps in my time as we had several small creeks and the Potomac River running through a huge piece of land I grew up on. They are absolutely delicious. A great find for onion fans and amazing with fried potatoes. Be forewarned though, they are strong. Your wife will have a fit if you kiss her after a few of them. If it is too strong for you raw use them sparingly.

  22. Gilly Willy says:

    Are you by any chance from chicago?

  23. Earl says:

    Hi. I am not from Chicago.

  24. Shawnee says:

    I was so happy to find this information about wild onions. I harvested some seeds from some plants I found at a lake where I take my dog to run. Now I’m going back to dig up the onions since I only gathered greens and seed. Thanks for the useful information.

  25. KIM HARRIS says:

    I JUST FOUND ONIONS WITH GREEN STEEMS AND THEY ARE STRONG TO TASTE..BETTER THAN IN THE STORES..MUCH BETTER FLAVOR. ARE THEY STILL SAFE.

  26. Earl says:

    The wild onions (or it might be garlic) that I have growing here are mild; they are not strong in taste, but I think they are still worth eating. For the plants you found, if you are tasting the characteristic onion flavor, and you enjoy the flavor, and if they are not bitter, and if you are still feeling alright by the time you read this response, then it is highly unlikely they are poisonous. Poisonous plants would be awful in taste. I hope you enjoy the free food.

  27. Emily says:

    Thank you I’ve been seeing wild onions in my yard of my home since I was a little girl I was curious since my mother always said I should never eat wild onion but if this can be eaten I just added it to the list of free food we have we get blackberries and wild raspberries growing in my yard once a year

  28. Earl says:

    Free food is the way this world was originally created. Free blackberries and raspberries are a treat, too! I think I have black raspberries on our property. The thorns hurt, but the fruit is sweet and tasty. The first people ate food and drank clean water without paying money. What does God say about this?

    The love of money is the root of all evil… 1 Timothy 6:10

    We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us. Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest. Lamentations 5:4~5

    Here is a promise offered by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ:

    Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live… Isaiah 55:1~3

    May God bless you as you continue to find free food! :-)

  29. Tim says:

    Hi. Onions, leeks, and garlics – wild or tame, grown for allium beauty, bulbs, or whatever – all that smell or taste like one of those is edible, from the top of the plant down to its hair roots, at any stage.

    There are dangers though. Alliums grown on soil high in heavy metals can be toxic if eaten more generously than a condiment due to the fact they are accumulators and can selectively suck up these many elements to dangerous levels.
    Tim Peters
    plant breeder and edibility researcher

  30. gabbie says:

    Hi, I found this so helpful! Thank you for sharing your experience. I have one question if you don’t mind, how do you know when it’s time to harvest?
    thanks!

  31. Earl says:

    If you are interested in eating the onion greens, which are similar to chives, I would harvest them when they are tender. Here that would be in early spring before they get too fibrous and hard to chew.

    The wild onions I did not harvest this year are currently growing their crazy-looking flowers and I think it is too late to harvest them this season. I think much of the plant’s energy goes into making these flowers. At the time of flowering, it might not be a good time to harvest the tiny bulbs, either. I thought the tender greens were tasty earlier this spring.

  32. John says:

    I live next to virgin river and i walking yesterday and found what looks to be green onions lying in the river bed. I pulled it out and smelled it and it smelled like fish. Could this be because it is in the river?

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