Friday, August 14, 2009

Onionweed (Allium triquetrum)

Onionweed is bursting up from the ground at the moment in Wellington, and some onionweed plants are starting to flower. As we move into spring, more and more will do so.

Wild onion (Allium) species the world over are edible. Allium triquetrum, a native of Europe, and also common in the wilds of Britain, is the wild onion that has taken off in NZ.

(The first mention of it being naturalised here that I can find is from the 1930s. In this 1936 article it's referred to as being 'a very frequent garden escape' so - contrary to what I previously thought - it seems it may have been brought deliberately by settlers.)

You can eat all parts of the plant.

Onionweed as a substitute for other oniony things
Use onionweed just as you'd use spring onions from the store. Two simple, yummy things to do with them are:

1. Chop them up finely and mix into butter to make a garlic butter substitute. It's delicious spread on French bread and baked like garlic bread, or over fish.

2. Make a spread (especially nice on rice crackers) by mashing together chopped onionweed, soft tofu, ginger juice (from the gratings squeezed), soy sauce, and a splash of peanut oil.

I love anything that combines onionweed with ginger! This Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe has gone down a treat with onionweed used instead of spring onions. And if you don't eat pork or any meat, it's really nice with whole mushrooms and firm tofu instead.

Note that the green bits of onionweed get stringier as they get older, so chopping them fine is important if you're actually eating them, rather than just using them to flavour something and removing them after cooking.

Using onionweed flowers
Throw the pretty onionweed flowers into salads, or batter them and fry them.

If you're frying them, cut the stalk about half a centimetre down from the flowers. That's just enough to hold the flower cluster together, but isn't enough of the stalk to be stringy. Everyone in my family seems to like this onionweed tempura.

In summer, after the onionweed plants die back, you can often find the bulbs in the soil. These can be pickled to make mini pickled onions. It's best to soak them in water first and rub off the papery skins.

You can also steam a handful of bulbs as a vegetable, and someone recently told me he liked them chopped up in salads.

Onionweed medicinally?
Two of onionweed's cultivated rellies - onion and garlic - are known for their anti-microbial properties, as well as being useful when blood pressure is high ...

I'd love to know if onionweed has similar benefits, and if so, to what degree? And are the onion greens useful medicinally, or are most of the medicinal properties concentrated in the roots? All info gratefully received!

Onion weed links:
Onion flower tempura recipe
Blog post about flower fritters
Plants for a Future database
Google Images


Anonymous said...

I read your post, had a small snack of gently sauted onion weed with a squeeze of lemon, and my attitude to the plant has totally changed! No longer will I be weeding I'll be harvesting. Thanks for that.

Johanna Knox said...

Oh nice - that sounds delicious! I must try it with lemon! :)

irishkitchengarden said...

Just planted these in the kitchen garden for the first time in a new perennial bed I put in.
Thanks for the recipe ideas, I was just going to use them as chives!!!

Simon - connemara croft

Sue Kerr said...

I just picked some onionweed from the garden path, chopped it up and mixed it with some tuna for a toast snack. It was delicious. Then I thought I should read about it! Great website. I have really wanted a Wellington foraging guide, and now I've found one.

Johanna said...

Hi Sue - thanks a lot for your comment. You have a wonderful blog. I'm going to try your 'always works out Risotto'. I love 'always works out' recipes!!

Gary t said...

I am trying to find out the food values in Oinion Weed, ie a list of vitamins and minerals and other info, have looked but cant seem to locate any info!
can any one help?
Gary t

taipaku said...

Hi Johanna, this is great. I tried the onion weed and it tasted great. I was telling my husband that it is possible to eat and found an article confirming it! Your articles are very useful! let me share your site to my blog(in Japanese though) if it is okay. I marinated the onion weed in vinegar like Japanese Rakkyo (Allium Chinese)

Unknown said...

Do thrsr also go by the name snowdrops?

Unknown said...

I found a site outlining the healing properties of this precious weed

rawrose said...

No they are not the same as Snowdrops ...I have both and they are definitely different.

Bethany said...

Also great wherever you would use spinach and ricotta with garlic or spring onion etc - canneloni, quiche, gozleme, spanikopita, gnudi. And we use the greens instead of chives (which tend to get tatty and tasteless here in Adelaide in winter) and the bulbs instead of raw garlic and/or onion. The green seedpods and the flowers we use just cos they're delicious - in fact i don't know how we managed before i transplanted allium triquetrum into our garden! They also grow in starved soil under trees, where the heat reflects off buildings and paving - too hot and dry and shady in summer for anything much else to grow (40 -44^C is fairly normal here in summer). Plus, my mum, who can't eat garlic or onion unless they're basically caramelised, can usually eat these any way she likes, which is awesome!

Please, whatever you do, don't use snowdrops or snowflakes - they're toxic - snowdrops fatally so. Look through a few of the many sites that show you how to identify allium triquetrum and be certain before you munch.

Lastly, if anyone knows good ways of preserving these for summer, apart from digging up the mature bulbs, please tell!

JulyRose said...

In Europe it's called Bärlauch and is a variation of our one here but I believe they are same in their health benefits. Its quiet common there and not seen as a weed. If you Google it if might come up on german but translate it should suffice...its amazing rich plant! And here councils poison it!

Bethany said...

Genius! Thank you, July Rose. So many delicious recipes out there under "Bärlauch". Considering i first grew Allium triquetrum as a substitute for Bärlauch, you'd think i would have thought of that :-) said...

They’ve gone crazy in my garden and several other people’s garden I know. ( Hawkes Bay and Northland). Can’t seem to get rid of them. Are they the same plant that is called ransom in England?

Bethany said...

No, that's usually Allium ursinum - the same plant as the Bärlauch / wild garlic i've been raving about, but it tastes very similar. Make sure you cut all the flowers off every year without fail, and they'll stop spreading outside of their proper area; if you really want to get rid of them, just keep pulling them up before they flower, and eventually they'll stop coming back. But they are so good to eat that you might want to keep a small patch.

Anonymous said...

Finally ID'd this plant... large patches grow perennially at the park near me but was never sure if it was edible.