Wild Garlic / Wild Onion

Alium vineale

A patch of Alium vineale

I have heard this perennial plant be called both wild garlic and wild onion. I am pretty sure the one I have been harvesting this season is Alium vineale, but I have not seen the flower yet so I can’t be sure. Either way, it is delicious and in large quantity where it does grow.

Identification

The plant strongly resembles long grass – in fact, I’ve stood in a field of it without realizing – until you inspect closer, or step on it just right, giving away its pungent scent. It has a rosette of basal leaves that grow up to 12 inches high, standing up right or slightly limp. These leaves are flat and skinny, with one fold down the center. They are smoother and lighter green than the common grass. Some leaves curl in the same way garlic does.

Numerous plants against a clipboard for a better view

These leaves grow from an underground bulb, just like cultivated onion and garlic. The bulb is small, approximately .25-.5 inches, and has fibrous roots growing from the bottom. Each year, some plants produce an inflorescence that grows on a stiff, round stem. The inflorescence forms inside a thin, white bud with a pointed tip.

Flower buds

Nutrition and Medicinal Qualities

This plant is high in Vitamins A and C. It is also quite rich in potassium, calcium, manganese, and selenium.

I believe that this plant is most closely related to cultivated garlic, which has many medicinal properties. It is effective at lowering bad cholesterol (LDL), while not changing good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Garlic widens blood arteries and decreases sticking of platelets, therefore lowering blood pressure and risk for blood clots. It is an antibiotic, killing bacteria, fungi, and other microbes, and can be used for bacterial diseases or as a preventative method when you first feel a cold coming on.

Harvesting and Preparation

You can cut just the leaves, allowing the bulb to remain and keep growing, and use these the same way you would scallion or garlic greens. It is also possible to uproot the entire plant with a small tool – I used my knife last time because it was all I had, and it worked fine. To cook with this bulb, first cut off the roots and then there is a brown outer skin that is easily removed. Cut the leaves off, and then chop the bulb. This can be sautéed alone in oil, just like chives or garlic would be. Add the greens later so they do not get overcooked. The bulbs can replace garlic in any recipe: stir fries, soups, spreads, you name it!

Recipes

Wild Garlic Oil (from The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook)

1/2 cup wild garlic bulbs, cleaned and any skin with dirt peeled away, avoiding cutting into the bulbs

1/2 cup olive oil, or as needed

1. Put the bulbs in a jar and cover them with olive oil. Tightly cover the jar and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, shaking the jar every morning and evening. (You can use the oil after a few hours, but it won’t be full strength)

2. Strain out the garlic and use it in other recipes. Store the flavored oil in a jar in the refrigerator. (Recent reports warn that the traditional practice or storing oil containing vegetable particles at room temperature risks botulism.) Wild Garlic Oil will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for 6 weeks.

Makes 1/2 cup.

Wild Garlic Salad

4 cups mesclun salad green mix

2 cups wild garlic leaves and bulbs, bulbs cleaned, any skin with dirt peeled away, and chopped

2 cups seedless grapes, sliced

2 cups walnuts, chopped

1 medium-size carrot, grated

Black Walnut Salad Dressing (or your favorite dressing)

Toss together all salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. Serve with the dressing on the side.

Serves 6.

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