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Mr. Smarty Plants - Wild onions in southwest Michigan

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Wednesday - June 06, 2007

From: Bridgman, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Wild onions in southwest Michigan
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

During the spring every year there are "Volunteer Onions" that grow in my lawn and garden. I live in Michigan, sw. question---are these onions? what are they--they smell like onions--- can they be eaten?

ANSWER:

There are several species of wild onions that grow in southwest Michigan—some native, some not native. However, it is possible that the one you encountered is a widespread, common native Allium canadense or another common native, Allium cernuum. A noxious weed species in Michigan is the European native, Allium vineale. You can eat all of the parts—the bulbs, the leaves and the bulblets (the small bulbs that form on the flowers on top of the plant) of all of the species of Allium (the onions, garlics, shallots, leeks, and chives). Be sure that when picking any part of the plant that you detect a distinct onion/garlic smell. There are other plants in the Family Liliaceae (Lily Family) that look like wild onions or garlic, but whose bulbs are poisonous. Those in the Genus Allium will have the typical onion/garlic smell and will be safe to eat. You should be aware, however, members of the Allium spp. can cause gastric distress if eaten in large quantities. Euell Gibbons in Stalking the Wild Asparagus has a chapter dedicated to finding and using "The Wild Onion Family." The book is probably available at your local library.

 

From the Image Gallery


Meadow garlic
Allium canadense

Nodding onion
Allium cernuum

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