Traditional Foods

Wild Onion

Traditionally, Native Americans grew many crops including corn, potatoes, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. They also gathered wild onions, blackberries, mulberries and strawberries. Wild onions are known for their strong odor. The most eaten part of the plant are the bulbs. They taste like green onions but are smaller in size. Wild onions are often confused with wild garlic and other common lawn weeds.

In the past, southeastern Tribes, including the Choctaw, grew their own food and looked for wild onions to harvest. This tradition continues today and brings families and communities together for wild onion dinners. These dinners are a time for fellowship and are often held at Indian churches, stomp grounds or in homes. Traditional hymns or songs are sung, stories are told, and games are played.

 

About

Wild onions can be enjoyed in many ways. They can be eaten raw, cooked, dried, frozen, canned in salsas or added to soups, salads and other dishes.

Wild onions are ready for harvest in early spring and continue to grow through the summer. They should be 6 inches tall and as thick around as a pencil. Larger onions will have a stronger smell. If bulbs are picked and not ready, put them back in the ground to grow next year.

Onions are a good source of fiber and contain vitamins A, C and K. They add flavor to many food dishes.

Storage

Fresh wild onions should be kept in a plastic food storage bag with a damp paper towel in the fridge. They may keep for up to 1 week.

Preparation

Wash wild onions with cool running water before preparing or eating.

Remove any wilted or damaged tops and trim the ends. Chop the bulb and green part of the onion, as needed.

Adapted from Bilyeu, L. (n.d.). Wild Onions: A Choctaw Tradition: Choctaw Nation. Retrieved February 18, 2020 from https://www.choctawnation.com/news-events/press-media/wild-onions-choctaw-tradition, Mihesuah, D. A. (2019).

Searching for Haknip Achukma (Good Health): Challenges to Food Sovereignty Initiatives in Oklahoma. In Indigenous food sovereignty in the United States: restoring cultural knowledge protecting environments and regaining health (pp. 94–121). Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma, Purdue Extension https://extension.purdue.edu/foodlink/food.php?food=onion,%20green%20onion,%20scallion and University of Illinois Extension https://web.extension.illinois.edu/veggies/onion.cfm.

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