Wild Garlic

This summer and fall, we’re going to have plenty of members of the Allium family available for harvest: Australian Brown onions, purple bunching onions, Egyptian walking onions (!), Inchelium Red garlic, and even some supermarket green onions, planted in the garden after being found limp in the crisper drawer last summer. They brightened up and grew us onion greens all season long and now have overwintered and look like they’re about ready to start up again. But nothing is quite to the point where it can be harvested without harming its future growth. So, once again, we’ve turned to the wild to fill the gap in fresh foods in the winter months. Last night, we seasoned our baked potatoes with the chopped greens of wild garlic.

There are many wild alliums, but the one we put on our potatoes is the one you see all over the place in yards and forest edges at this time of year (and that kids love to nibble on!). I’m guessing at its scientific classification, but I’m pretty sure it’s Allium vineale, since my field guide says Allium vineale is an invasive weed, and this stuff is clearly everywhere. Allium vineale is the bane of dairy and wheat farmers, since its growth in pastures and fields can impart a garlic flavor to milk, butter, and even flour. But why not turn what could be a nuisance into a blessing? The garlic flavor was a welcome addition to our potatoes last night!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. I am fascinated with your use of foraging. While I have been known to try things from around my property to see if they are edible, I am somewhat chicken to feed them to my family for fear of unintentionally poisoning them. I guess my question is, how do you know for sure something is “safe”? Or, do you just try it yourself and live with the consequences? Also, how much do you try? I have take nibbles of things and thought they were delightful, but what if they are only dangerous in large quantities? Signed, Your Friend the Chicken Forager = )

    1. Sharon says:

      Thanks for the important questions! The most important thing in foraging is definitely getting the identification of a plant right. Once you know for sure what it is, there are lots of field guides to edible wild plants that will let you know if it’s edible, and if so, how to prepare it. Identification is something that takes a lot of familiarity with plants. I wouldn’t eat something the first time I notice it in the wild, even if I think I’m sure what it is. I want to develop a familiarity with the plant by seeing it over time, to the point where I can recognize it automatically. (It’s easy to get this kind of familiarity with weeds in my garden!) Then it’s very important when you think you’ve properly identified a plant to be sure that ALL the identifying characteristics listed for it apply to the plant you have in mind: its leaves, flowers, habitat, and the season in which it’s growing, for example. And of course photo identification is very important.

      I wouldn’t advise anyone to rely solely on my identifications of wild plants on this blog. Everyone needs to have their own reputable field guides with much more detail than I provide here. But hopefully the things I post give you ideas to research on your own! A great resource is Samuel Thayer’s books, as well as his website: foragersharvest.com.

      If I sounded like I was a little unsure about the identification of this wild garlic, I was simply unsure of the particular species. I knew that it was an allium, and I already knew that it was edible–because kids around here have been eating it for years!

  2. DM says:

    I love the first picture. makes me want to find/plant some.

  3. garden.poet says:

    Oh, I don’t advise you plant this…you’ll be mowing it down and pulling it out for years to come…We have a few large clumps of it growing wild, as well as clumps popping up everywhere, and I have occaissionally used it in place of chives or scallions. I may just give up on planting scallions, since this grows so well.

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