There is nothing like bringing in a bit of the outdoors to garnish a holiday meal. Friends and family may look at you askew if you let them watch you pick part of their dinner from the lawn, but what are family dinners for, right!
If you live in the central or eastern North America you most certainly will find this wonderful weed growing in your yard or nearby field. Native to Europe it is also found along the coast of California up into Alaska as well as in Asia and North Africa.
Allium vineale L. or (wild garlic) is a member of the genus Allium which also contains onion, chives, scallions, shallots, and leeks. It is a biennial growing up to 2.5 feet in height. The root is a bulb that has a brown paper like layer surrounding it like a store bought onion usually not over a 1/2 in diameter. The leaves are slender and hollow towards their base, and attach to the stem at up to half the height of the plant. The leaves and bulb have a strong garlic odor when crushed. The flower head is round up to 3/4″ and covered by a papery sheath. The flowers are typically a mix of red-purple-pink-white.
Closely related and found in the same areas in the US is Allium canadense L. (Wild onion). The leaves of Allium canadense are flat and solid in cross-section as compared to the round, hollow leaves of A. vineale.
Both are found in waste places, pastures, forest edges, and front yards. The fall and spring of the year makes a particularly good time to find these in your yard. They will start growing in the spring before your grass does, and will continue to grow after your lawn no longer does. Identification is simple as if you cut it and smell a strong onion/garlic you know you have the right thing or at least a member of the Allium genus, all of which are edible.
The whole plant is edible, however I seldom use the bulbs as it is a fair amount of work cleaning them for such small bulbs, but I would like to try pickling them sometime like a cocktail onion. More often than not I just cut the tops and use as a fresh chive or green onion tops in recipes. The chopped tops dry very easily laid out on a plate left in an oven on pilot. The flavor in the bulbs is rather strong, but the tops are just slightly stronger than chives as to onion flavor. As with most plants the smaller parts are more tender than the large leaves and bulbs.
One of the things I like to use wild garlic for when camping is for stuffing fish. Small pan fish or trout dressed, cleaned, and bellies stuffed with wild garlic is good eats.
Well I am off to Thanksgiving Dinner, and you should be too. Have a little fun if you see this out in the yard and pick a little to chop and put on top of your potatoes. You might get a few looks, but your food will be the better for it.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
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Forum Topic: Foraged Garlic