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Cold-Weather Foraging: Field Garlic (Allium vineale)

| 1/13/2014 9:33:00 AM

field garlicThere is one delicious wild edible plant that I can always count on foraging even during the coldest months of winter, and that's field garlic. Other names this plant goes by are onion grass, wild onion, wild garlic, and wild chives.

Allium vineale, which I know as field garlic, grows in clumps of linear leaves that are well camouflaged when they grow in grass lawns. But unlike grass or even other edible Alliums, field garlic leaves are round and hollow like those of chives.

There are a few inedible plants with leaves that, to a novice wildcrafter, could look like candidates for field garlic. And you know I am very big on safety first when foraging, as in always be 100% certain of your plant ID before tasting any wild plant. But here is a fact that will enable you to feel confident when identifying edible Alliums: everything that smells like onions or garlic is edible. Use your nose: the toxic “lookalikes” are scentless.

Field garlic is an ephemeral, meaning it dies back to the ground when temperatures start warming up for summer. Look for it in August and you'll be out of luck. But during the cooler months from fall through spring, this is one wild edible you can count on. In cold-winter areas like where I live in the Northeast, this dovetails perfectly with the timing of cultivated garlic, which is harvested in July. Just when the field garlic is going out of season, the cultivated crop is ready, and vice versa.

Field garlic grows in a variety of conditions from sunny lawns to partial shade. It thrives especially well under or near deciduous trees that don't leaf out until mid to late spring when Allium vineale is getting ready to go dormant for the year.

How to Eat Field Garlic

The Leaves

Echo Moon
3/16/2014 10:11:47 PM

when i was a kid i use to gather this all the time. mom loved to use it in cooking. dad and i would simply make sandwiches out of it. my x husband was allergic to raw onions and was not a big fan unless cooked into a recipe. while we were out in the boonies once looking at an old abandoned house i found some. he was inside the house while i was plucking the stems and happily munching. when he came out and bent to give me a quick kiss the 'aroma' about knocked him over. LOL

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