April 14, 2010

Wild Foods: Onions & Sheep Sorrel

Common wild onions grow all over the placeIn my last IDC post, you all joined in for an interesting discussion about food stigmas. I suspect there are stigmas about wild foods too, though Euell Gibbons did a lot to bring wild foods into the gourmet spotlight. I certainly enjoyed his books and still have my copy of Stalking The Wild Asparagus. In addition, I have a copy of Peterson Field Guides Edible Wild Plants in our homestead library.

The wild onions pictured at left are a common sight. They seem to grow everywhere and it's not unusual to get a whiff of them whenever someone is mowing their lawn.

I harvested some last week and we've been enjoying them. The tops (before flowering) can be chopped and used like chives. They smell wonderful while being sautéed in olive oil or butter...

Wild onion tops chopped into cooked eggsFresh pickle of wild onions... and add a mild, pleasant flavor for my scrambled eggs.

The little onion bulbs are like working with shallots and can be used the same way. I took the ones I didn't cook and made a fresh pickle with them, using leftover pickle juice.

They do get stronger (hotter) as they get bigger. But they sauté nicely and make a nice substitute for garden grown onions.

Once they flower, I'm thinking I'll be better able to identify the species.

Medicinally, the wild onions are used for colds and respiratory ailments.

Another common sight, sheep sorrelThe other thing we've been eating is sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), another common sight. I haven't found enough to cook a couple of servings by itself, but I've been adding it to cook with spinach. It adds a nice tangy flavor to it. I think it would be an excellent flavoring for fish too.

Sheep sorrel is kin to dock and I read that it's juice can remove rust, mold, and ink stains from linen, wool, and wicker. I haven't tried this though so I don't know how well it works. Anyone?

Although wild foods are sometimes a bit more trouble to gather and prepare than garden grown, I still like the idea having care free, volunteer foods available. Consequently I'm tempted to say that these are two "weeds" that I won't try to eradicate completely, but really, who can keep up with weeds anyway. :)


Sue said...

I've used "lawn onions" in cheese bread, and it was yummy- though my husband did look at it very doubtfully. He's firmly in the grocery store camp.


I love chives in my eggs gives them a little something extra! I like that you have some wild foods available to try out. The last pic is that in the lettuce/spinach family?

Michelle said...

We have SCADS of wild onion on our place; it seems to spread faster than everything but pop weed. I've wondered if they are edible; with your inspiration I'll have to try them, especially since I use a lot of onions. Are all varieties edible?

Leigh said...

Sue, good to hear from you! That does indeed sound yummy.

Deep End, it's a member of the dock family (Rumex), but it's not related to lettuce (Lactuca).

Michelle, as far as I know they are. I found no warnings about specific ones in my Peterson Guide. They do get stronger as they get older!

Woolly Bits said...

wild garlic - I could roll around in wild garlic:)) and luckily my first three measly plants, which I bought have spread nicely by now! and of course all kinds of berries. I do have wild onions in the garden, too. I had a good laugh about some ornamental gardening tips lately, where they offer a special onion "Hair"! it's nothing but a wild onion, which forms air bulbs that look like heads with green hair, when they start to sprout! but nobody told the people that they start popping up everywhere:)) I do like sorrel too, but I usually shred it finely and put it into soups.

Laura @ LivingOurWay said...

I remember a childhood friend showing me how you could eat wild onions but I don't think I have done it since I've become an adult. We grow green onions in the garden now though. I need to look into the sheep sorrell and see if we have that around here.

Benita said...

I grew up eating wild onions straight from the ground, although we have to make sure there was none growing in the pastures. Cows that eat wild onions give onion flavored milk and the cheese factory we sold our milk to didn't appreciate the added flavor.

Theresa said...

Favorite wild food, Morels and we have them up here.
Might even see some soon if the weather cooperates.
Berries too, and little tiny wild strawberries, assuming you can find them first. :-)

Renee Nefe said...

it has been too long since I've lived anywhere near places where stuff grows wild. :(

I tried planting onions last year but when I went to try to "harvest" one it was still as small as it was when I planted it...so I replanted it in hopes of it getting bigger.

Leigh said...

Bettina I would love to have wild garlic too. Interesting about the hair onion. I've not seen that one yet!

Laura, the wild onions are a little more bother to prepare, seeing that they are so small. The onions I'd like to find are the Egyptian Walking kind, perennials, which would be easiest of all.

Benita, what a job that must have been! As much as I love onion flavor, the one place I wouldn't want it would be in my milk!

Theresa, I love mushrooms, but I've never thought about learning to identify the wild ones. We did get scads of different types last year.

Renee, I found the same thing too. Those onion bulbs I planted last fall have done little except grow tops :( Like you, I stuck mine back in the ground to see what will happen.

Julie said...

You are so full of information, I sure know who to come to. My hubby would love the onions!

charlotte said...

Wild onions growing in the yard - that's fantastic, I would love that! The children eat quite a lot of Rumex acetosea during summer, it is a tall plant and they chew the stem.
We use wild chives in salads and of course all kind of berries.

Nina said...

I've never seen a wild onion around here! We have ramps and wild leeks sometimes and of course I've harvested wild berries, raspberries, strawberries and low bush blueberries, although you do have to keep an eye out for the bears with the latter!

Leigh said...

Julie, let's just say I love to learn and my hobby is collecting information. :)

Charlotte, I in turn would love to have some wild garlic around! The onions are very prolific. I've pulled a lot but hopefully there will be enough to reseed for next year.

Nina, I would love all those berries......without the bears! I would also love to get some ramps. They do grow in my part of the country but I have yet to find any for planting. Hopefully one of these days.

Grace said...

I've been laughing because I constantly have to hoe wild onions out of my garden. They grow like crazy. Kind of ironic to hoe them out of the onion patch. It never crossed my mind to eat them! I'll try some this weekend.

goodeating said...

I've just discovered sheep sorrel this season. It was growing in my herb garden in our summer home in the mountains of northeast Alabama (yes, we have mountains in Alabama - beautiful, very old ones). We've been eating it added to our spinach salads, and dinner guests ate it without knowing, complimenting the taste in the salad all the while! Today, I'm searching to see if I can blanch and freeze some for my freezer at home, to add to hearty winters soups and stews.....I'm definitely pinning your blog on my Foraging board; thanks!

goodeating said...

Lee, I should have read about you before my smarty comment about having mts in Alabama! I was searching about sheep's sorrel and commented before checking you out. I'm so happy to find your blog because you are near to me, or at least in the same general region. I have a couple of acres with a 100-year old farmhouse in Mentone, Al. Are you near?

Elaine Snow

Leigh said...

Grace, here I am, three years later and just now responding to your comment. I see your not blogging any more, too bad!

Goodeating, thank you for commenting! I've been wondering about dehydrating sheep sorrel. It does add a nice tang to foods. Thanks for mentioning you have a foraging board. I'll have to find it and follow.

Leigh said...

Elaine, hello! We're not very close to Birmingham, two states away in fact. Still, we probably have a lot of forage edibles in common!

I made a quick visit to your blog to return the visit and the comment, but see you haven't started posting yet. I hope you do!