An entrepreneur from the get go, I undertook my first business venture at the tender age of eight, attempting to sell the sweet and delicate onions that grew wild in my backyard to the neighbors, who looked on perplexed. Let's just say, I'm pleased that La Abeja Herbs has proved more popular than my roadside onion stand. And while I've expanded my knowledge of and love for wild foods and medicines, Spring Onions remain one of my favorites.
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Wild Onions are one of the first feral foods to appear in Spring. I am here in Central Texas, in Austin, where I was born and raised, and these tender alliums are everywhere! My mother's home is just up the street from a remarkably vital stretch of water and wild. Less than a quarter mile from a medium sized highway, this natural sanctuary so tucked away, feels like my own private Eden whenever I come to the city. The diversity of wild foods and medicines which thrive in this small haven is astounding. The Wild Onions are some of the first to find their way onto my plate in Spring, along with cheerful dandelions blossoms and their delicious bitter greens. Then there are the diminutive and tart Oxalis leaves, the creeping Dewberry now in bloom, the overgrown mats of Cleavers, and the Pecans overhead just beginning to leaf out. There are also sizable Trout in good numbers in the creek, and though I'm not yet much of an angler, they've piqued my curiosity. All of this against a backdrop of what is to me, an iconic Springtime vision -- a profusion of edible magenta blossoms covering the Redbud trees.
Harvesting wild onions is a deliciously grounding way to reconnect with the Earth as she grows more fertile with each passing day of Spring. I recommend finding a patch of damp earth, dappled with sun and shade, and placing one palm flat on the ground as you gently coax each bulb from its subterranean resting place. The soft sound and gentle release as the roots succumb to the pull of your hand, moving from soil to sunlight, is marvelously wholesome and satisfying. It is also a resplendent thing to have your fingers covered in wild dirt. I like to leave just a little bit of it on the bulbs rather than washing them too thoroughly. I am a strong believer that a little dirt is very good for you. If that sounds strange, I encourage you read more about that here.
Wild Onions bloom in Texas in late March, just after the Spring Equinox. They may bloom earlier or later near your home depending on the climate. The small white bulbs are sweetest before flowering but still very edible afterward as well. Additionally, the flowers make a beautiful and mild garnish for savory dishes.
What follows are a few of my favorite simple ways to make the most of Wild Onions and to use all parts of the plant. The flavorful white bulbs make an excellent addition or substitute for any dish in which you might use cultivated onions and are especially good with scrambled eggs. The above ground green parts can be used in place of chives or dehydrated and put away for later use as you'll read below.
Wild Onion + Nettle Seed
This wildcrafted finishing salt elevates even the simplest of meals with all the liveliness and delight of Spring. Sprinkle it generously atop eggs and salads, grains and greens, or anything else you fancy. Mineral rich and deliciously fragrant it lends an incredible umami flavor to all that it touches. The Wild Spring Onion bulbs contribute both sweetness and warmth while the generous sprinkling of their blossoms brings a sense of simple luxury to any dish. Nettle seed is famed for its ability to restore a depleted nervous system, bolster overtaxed adrenals, and generally restore vitality to the system and the Pink Himalayan Sea Salt in which these all reside, make for a nuanced and mineral rich base, reminiscent of the ancient Ocean from which all new life once sprung. Once you've tasted this salty wildcrafted delicacy, you won't want to go a meal without it.
Wild Onion Confit
This is by far the best way I have dreamt up to preserve and enjoy Wild Onions. The confit is cooked slowly over low heat to highlight the sweetness of the onions. The smokey accent of the chipotle pepper adds just the right amount of heat and flavor. This confit freezes well and pairs marvelously with cooked vegetables, grains, meat and fish, so yeah, with just about everything.
Two Large Fistfuls of Wild Onions
One Large Cultivated Onion
Four Tablespoons or so of Bacon Grease
(Coconut Oil, Butter, or Olive Oil can be substituted)
Two Smoked and Dried Chipotle Peppers
A Generous Splash Of White Wine
Wildcrafted Onion + Nettle Seed Finishing Salt Salt To Taste
Chop the wild and cultivated onions finely
In a large cast iron, melt the bacon grease and add onions and smoked chipotle peppers
Cook over very low heat, stirring often, until onions are completely wilted and caramelized
Raise heat to medium high and deglaze the pan by adding the White Wine
Stir until wine is cooked off and immediately return to low heat
Salt to taste (we recommend our Wildcrafted Onion + Nettle Seed Finishing Salt)
Store in glass jar in fridge or freezer and enjoy freely
A Dinner of Wild Rice, Calabaza With Bacon, Kale, and Rosemary Flowers
Cornish Game Hen with Wild Onion Jam, Pickled Onion Blossoms Buds, and Wild Onion Flowers
Pickled Onion Blossom Buds
The unopened buds of the onions can be reserved from the recipe above or from any other Wild Onions you gather. Simply fill a jar with the buds and cover with a brine comprised of one part water, one part apple cider vinegar, a generous spoonful of sea salt. Any other spices you fancy can be added as well but the flavor is excellent kept simple and no additions are necessary. Place in fridge and wait at least two days before enjoying. These pickled buds will keep at least a couple of months if they are refrigerated and a clean utensil is used each time they are served.
Dried Wild Onions
The dried greens of Wild Onions can be powdered and added to dishes just as you would use onion powder. They can also be cut into small sections and used in place of chives. To dry the greens, hang in tiny bunches in a well ventilated place away from direct sunlight or place in a dehydrator on a low setting. Powder in a mortar and pestle or clean coffee grinder or cut with scissors as desired.
PLEASE NOTE : It is essential to positively identify any wild plants you plan
to eat or use as medicine, using a field guide specific to your region.
Always use good judgement and careful discernment when harvesting.