Is this onion grass growing wild in my back yard edible?

by 12118 · July 14, 2014 at 12:39 PM

This one is for all those expert foragers out there. My back yard is now starting to sprout grass after a rainy March, and since we haven't mowed yet I noticed a corner of the yard is dominated by these tufts of longer, heartier looking grass which smell very onion-y. By comparison the rest of the grass is ~3" high while these tufts are up to a foot high when I stretch them out (see below pic for reference). The onion grass tufts are also a little bit more blue-grey and sturdy (= round, not a blade like standard grass) than the surrounding grass.

When I pick these out of the ground the onion smell is much stronger at the tips, where the roots are white and purplish. For climate/region reference I live in the mid-Atlantic/eastern seaboard, and it's been mostly 40s/50s weather-wise with a few warmer days here and there in the past few weeks.

I'm no botanist (in fact I've been known to kill house plants), but if I had come across these as a gatherer, judging by their savory aroma, I might have found them a nice addition to something brewing over a fire. Are these onions? Could they possibly be edible? As a matter of waiving liability I'll go ahead and say that I'm not relying on PaleoHackers' opinions as my sole decision making point on whether to try these; however if the general consensus points to these being edible, I would continue with research on my own to determine whether I'd ultimately try them.

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I dug around some more today and look at what I found! It would appear to be a bona fide spring onion. Other clumps I dug up had baby bulbs that I can only assume will continue to grow. Fabulous! Now I've dug up and saved some clusters in planters before the lawn mower gets to them. ;-p

Thanks to all for the encouragement and opinions! alt text

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17 Replies

40 · April 07, 2011 2:01 AM

my son who is 9 has been eating them since he was 3. He calls them wild garlic. He hasn't been sick yet :)

130 · April 07, 2011 2:20 AM

Some sort of wild chives, maybe? They look like chives...

55320 · April 07, 2011 at 12:39 AM

This is a curry I made with that when I lived in Sweden (ignore the tofu, I was having some vegetarians over for dinner) is-this-onion-grass-growing-wild-in-my-back-yard-edible? It was decent and tasted a bit like chives. As the spring wore on they became tough and gross and I stopped harvesting them.

10750 · April 07, 2011 1:36 PM

you might get some use out of these...

Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies has a pretty good identification section.

I also have The Backyard Medicine Chest: An Herbal Primer

I do not have, but am very tempted to get URBAN FORAGING - Finding and eating wild plants in the city.

9796 · April 07, 2011 at 12:35 PM

I also used to eat this when I was a kid, no ill effects!

1021 · April 07, 2011 at 12:30 PM

I used to eat those in the playground as a kid (my parents would have been horrified, since I'm sure there were all kinds of pesticides on them), and I've made it to age 30!

90 · April 07, 2011 at 11:36 AM

They are totally edible, but they tend to be very fibrous and chewy. You could maybe use them in a stock and then take them out perhaps

5763 · April 07, 2011 9:41 AM

They are propably better than most stuff on grocery store, and Fresh. Fresh is tasty and healthy :)

3914 · April 07, 2011 2:04 AM

They sound and look like wild onions, or perhaps chives. It'll be easier to tell once they put on some kind of bloom, if you let them grow all year. In the meantime, I'd happily use them like green onions (scallions), as long as the lawn hasn't been treated with anything nasty.

10 · June 04, 2013 at 11:00 PM

I have picked and ate the tops for years either cooked or raw. Just recently found the oniony-garlick bulbs and started harvesting them as well.

15 · April 10, 2013 6:26 PM

Hello, I know this is an older post and all but we have harvested and cooked them for many years. Usually they come out about the same time as the wind morels around here in Oklahoma. The flavor and odor of ramps is usually compared to a combination of onions and garlic. They add wonderful and uniquely pungent flavor to soups, egg dishes, casseroles, rice dishes and potato dishes. Use them raw or cooked in any recipe calling for scallions or leeks, or cook them in a more traditional way, scrambled with eggs or fried with potatoes. Ramps aren't available for long, but you can chop and freeze them for cooked dishes. The green tops are milder in flavor and are usually used along with the bulbs. I chop about half of the green leaves separately, air-dry them for a few hours then freeze them in an air-tight container for future use as a seasoning.

10 · April 28, 2011 at 12:37 AM

Onion grass is edible! Most folks don't consider to be so because it is so fibrous, but it most definitely is and is taught to be edible by the U.S. Military. Since most people won't find themselves in a survival situation, you might want to chop it into small pieces and use when cooking. It adds great flavor to your stove top dishes. From top to bottom, this is a great thing to eat. Enjoy!

1246 · April 08, 2011 at 12:55 PM

I ate them as a kid, and I'm still here.

0 · July 14, 2014 at 12:39 PM

As said above by mom 1, ramps are a different species, namely Allium tricoccum, also elsewhere called wild leeks. These appear very early in the spring and are characterized by having wide flat, not tubular (circular in cross-section) leaves. The important thing to make sure of is that you did not get any lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria majalis by mistake. Simply testing by smell a tiny crushed fragment is sufficient to tell if Allium (onion, garlic or leek) or not. If it doesn't smell like onion, then it is NOT. The toxin in lily-of-the-valley is a cardiac glycoside. It would be a candidate for heart medicine if it were not so hard to dose without killing the patients.

0 · July 07, 2014 1:14 PM

The high probability is that you have found wild onion, also called field garlic, Allium vineale. This is a common lawn and meadow weed all across eastern North America. They are certainly edible and can be cooked into a number of recipes, but they are quite strong. The sulfide chemistry that gives then their familiar onion smell also makes them 'planta non grata' at dairy farms because once consumed by dairy animals, they taint the milk. Remember, like all onions, they are somewhat toxic, in quantity, to most pets and farm stock.

Thanks for reading.

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10077 · June 04, 2013 at 11:43 PM

I pulled a bunch of wild onions this year. I used the tops like chives but after a week they dried out and became too woody to eat.

8 · April 26, 2013 2:07 AM

These photos are onion grass.

Ramps are a different plant. We pick ramps in the mountains of West Virginia where they hold ramp festivals, with them cooked (or raw) in everything!

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