Wild Onions - Collecting, Gathering and Recipe Inspiration

March 30, 2012 - I came back and added some pictures and back links to wild onion recipes I have tried.  Enjoy!

Wild onions are out right now in the Midwest.  These are the dainty little onions with some powerful flavor - super oniony.  I collected a bag full out on the back side of the arboretum.  In the arboretum proper these have been weeded out.  They are considered an invasive species; a delicious, edible invasive species. 

Here's what they look like growing in the woods:

Now these aren't ramps. 
These are ramps:

Most of these recipes and ideas will also work for ramps.  Ramps have a milder flavor and are more prized in the foraging community.  However, there aren't any near me, so I settled for wild onions.  Here's more information on ramps if you are interested.

Right now is a great time to harvest both ramps and wild onions.  As things get hotter so will the wild onions and wild onions are already pretty potent. When they flower they will use up all of their stored energy and they won't have much of a bulb left.  Then they go dormant for the hot part of the summer.  In the cool of the fall they will sprout again and put on growth for the spring, so you see the best time to pick them is spring.
Now what shall I do with my onions.  Here's the recipes I have tried and made into blog posts:

I also came across these recipes:
 The Cherokee Gathering Place website tells the story of wild onions in their history:
Gathering wild onions in spring is a ritual among the Oklahoma Cherokees, as well as the other tribes who live where these wonderful plants grow. Wild onions are often frozen and kept for months so they can be eaten the rest of the year.
Wild Onions have an important social aspect among many Indian people in eastern Oklahoma, including Cherokees. In the early spring, many Indian churches, stompgrounds, clubs and other groups hold wild onion dinners. Families and friends also often make an outing of gathering wild onions and/or eating them together. The wild onions are prepared by frying them with eggs and are usually served with other Indian dishes such as fry bread and grape dumplings. Wild onions grow in a variety of conditions but are best gathered where a loose moist soil promotes thick growth and easy digging. Timbered bottomlands are favored. Cattle grazing effectively eliminates the digging of wild onions. Wild onions are among the earliest greenery to emerge in the spring and cattle like to crop off young blaldes, making it impossible for humans to find them even if they survive the grazing. The milk of dairy cows grazing on wild onions takes on a strong flavor that most people find objectionable.
What are you doing with your wild onions?


  1. Awesome (edible austin is great, isn't it?)
    we have tons of wild onions - the area behind our house is in fact known as 'Onion Creek'
    I was foolish our first year and harvested ALL of them (well, andy did - i'd asked him to pick a few and low and behold he'd picked them all) so this is the first year since then they've finally made a come back - and they're everywhere! including in my raised beds: how the heck?
    mine have already flowered and are drooping. I don't realy eat ours as their flavor is sooooo gamey, but maybe i was just trying them too late in the season (wow, April is so deep into summer, sigh)

  2. Aparently chicago is the name for wild onions is some Native American language. I guess they are everywhere! I saw a recipe for wild onion kimchee. Might be interesting?

  3. Ahhh, living of the fat of the land. There's nothing better than hunting and gathering your own dinner. But the note about not being able to find wild onions on pasture land made me cringe. The cows that eat the onions are doing us all a favor. You know what's in a cow pasture besides wild onions? Poop. And what's in the poop? E. coli.

    Last year I got super sick when I ate a friend's "morel" mushroom chili. When the fat of the land is exploding out your face at mach speed you'll give Mother Nature a nod of appreciation for her knack to make tasty treats and fatal foilage look aweful similar.

    Only you can prevent gutrot/mudbutt/exploding vomitus!

  4. i think you can make kimchee out of anything - that's the beauty of it. need to make a batch very soon, in fact - think i'll use some of my mustard leaves and see what THAT does.

  5. Clarissa, you make it sound like your friend picked cow poop rather than morels...

  6. oh wow. Here in Australia, we got onion grass (don't know if it's edible) and some sort of really tough fibrous grass that has onion-y looking bulbs during spring, with little purple star flowers that fade into dried bean sprout looking things when they go to seed.

    Sounds like they'd be great for dishes that need real onion flavour... certain soups, game or roast lamb/beef... hmmm. Are they really like real onions only with more oomph?

  7. I just found some in our yard under a maple tree of all places. Imagine my surprise when I did a google image search and it led me back to you! Even though we're Okies, we've never had the pleasure of attending a wild onion dinner. Thanks for the recipes!

  8. Anonymous3/25/2012

    Ha - I found this page from a google image search too - these things have invaded my garden here in Maryland and I didn't realize until I started trying to pull them up that they were onions. I was wondering if they were ok to cook with. I guess I'll give it a try! They are actually pretty hard to get out of the ground - I have to dig to get the bulb. Anyhow, thanks for the info.

  9. Our cabin is in northern Minneosta and I believe we have wild onions, at least they sure smell like it. Someone told me they were not good for eating, maybe poisonous? Is that true?

    1. I'm not qualified to tell you if what you have is wild onion or not. However, to my knowledge there are no poisonous plants in the Allium (onion) Family. Try checking with your local extesion agent.

  10. How are they frozen and kept for months? Just clean and throw in the freezer? I know this article is old but I really enjoyed it. I have just found these in my yard and would love to freeze some for later.

    1. These last years I have been eating them fresh, but if I were going to try freezing them, I would clean and prep them for how I planned to cook with them (ie sliced or diced), then freeze them on cookie sheets. Once they are completely frozen place them in freezer bags.

  11. Ramps are protected in Minnesota. You can only harvest them off private land with permission of the land owner. It's advised to only harvest 10% of the cluster at a time.