Wild Onions in Maryland, Can You Eat'em ?????

ARUM(7)April 18, 2005

I know some folks have wild onions that they can eat where they live, but can you eat these in MD? Does anyone know? Thanks, :)Arum

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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

There are so many onions out there, its very difficult to determine the type you speak of. Even though there are many onion types as well as some wild ones, my guess is that its a walking onion of some type. These can grow wild and will self plant the tops to make more. A typical area with just 20 of these planted, if gone unchecked for maybe 4 years, can fill the space with more than 50 times the original amount. Can you be more specific as to their color, habit, size, and growth/reproduction method.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 1:55PM
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oldroser(z5)

To the best of my knowledge, none are poisonous. The problem is the flavor. Euell Gibbons was strong on eating all wild onions but the kind we get here have foliage like grass and a very strong smell. Maybe it's an acquired taste?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 4:40PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

All native wild onions in North America are edible. Some are just a bit on the strong side. OK for flavoring something to be cooked but I wouldn't want to attempt eating many as scallions. The strongest that I have is the nodding onion, A. cernuum, and the leaves are rather tasty for the first several weeks of spring or as seedlings. After that, they are a bit strong for eating raw.

If you've got onions which are topsetters, they aren't wild but rather feral. As far as I know, there are no native topsetter multipliers. The only native topsetters are garlics, not onions.

Martin

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 5:57PM
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ARUM(7)

oldroser, you describe them well! Tha's just what their like. I think you can eat em, but they are strong. :) arum

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 8:04PM
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insomniac23(z8 Oregon)

Paquebot, how can a plant be feral?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 11:27AM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

Feral would be non-native in this case. The use of feral is generally associated with domestic non-native animals which have reverted to a wild state. The most common that one hears about are cats, dogs, and pigs. Cats and pigs are non-native to North America but often establishing wild colonies. In all cases, their breeding will find them reverting to a wild type. Feral cat colonies usually revert to striped tabbies. Dog colonies revert to a yellow cur similar to the Australian dingo. Pigs revert to a long hairy beast.

I'm not certain if there is a good word to describe non-native plant varieties which have escaped from cultivation and become nuisances. Dandelions, kudzu, quack grass, multiflora rose, and a lot of others may have a lot of names of which perhaps only half would be allowed here! Some references would use the word "naturalized". Pollination within the colony of some plant species remove certain domestic traits and they eventually may revert to something close to their original wild ancestors. That's why a lot of the wild garlic leeks of the south are more like their original forms which still grow wild in Europe. They are growing wild but non-native and not exactly like the cultivated domestic variety.

It's nearly also so with the topsetting "wild" onions which are found from Texas to Georgia. All had tame origins and at one time may have been brought to this continent as a single species. Now I can see small differences from 3 separate locations. All are now growing "wild" as escaped or abandoned domestic things. And that's exactly the same situation with feral cats and dogs!

Martin

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 1:23PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

Just noticed that I forget to link to the definition of "feral". You'll find that it applies almost equally to plants as it does to birds and animals.

Martin

Here is a link that might be useful: Feral Definition

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 10:51PM
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byrdzeye(z5 OH)

A botanical description in a flora key would use the words 'escape' or 'introduced' or specify the origin as in 'Native of Europe.'
For A. sativum - 'Commonly cultivated but occasionally an escape.'
A. vineale - 'Introduced from Europe.'

But feral certainly works here, after all, botanically speaking, there is no differences between onions and garlic, only differences are in the individual species of Allium.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 9:38AM
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chuckr30(z5, GR-MI)

I think you can eat them if they have not been sprayed with chemicals. So if they grow near a neighborhood, then they might have been sprayed.

Here's something else to consider when eating wild plants/berries. Many parks here in Michigan used to be old dumps. Yes really. This cheap land was topped with fill dirt then sold to the city real cheap. Some cities will build houses on top of a dump but most do not, so they turn it into a park. Dumps can have all sorts of nasty chemicals like cleaners, paints (often made with lead), solvents, turpentine, etc. which the plants can soak up. Not to mention, maybe the dump contained medical waste, or hazardous chemicals.

I mention this because I went hiking yesterday on one side of a river, and there was all this old junk there. It turns out, the junk was in the hillside spilling out into the river. That whole side of the river used to be a dump, and quite a while ago judging by the 4 digit phone number on a piece of crockery I found.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 1:39PM
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