Wild Edibles: How to Identify and Eat Field Garlic
Disclaimer: Eating certain wild plants can be deadly!!
Be certain to consult a professional (or a really good field guide) in order to positively identify this plant before trying this for yourself. The owners of this site will not be held responsible for any lapses in judgment or stupidity when handling or consuming wild plants.
Field Garlic (Allium vineale) is a plant that I smelled long before I actually identified and used. I remember as a young boy cutting my the grass and smelling the distinct odor of onions (or what I though was onion) and wondering where it came from. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered it was in many cases field garlic (some were actually wild onion as well).
How to Identify Field Garlic
The first step before eating any wild edible is to positively identify it. Since Field Garlic has some poisonous look-a-likes (most notably Star of Bethlehem), it’s very important you learn to positively identify this plant before attempting to consume it.
When you first start successfully identifying this plant you’ll begin to notice how often you mistook it for grass — and then you’ll begin noticing it everywhere. Here are some key features to look for in order to positively identify Field Garlic:
|Long, narrow leaves growing in bunches: Since the leaves emerge from layered, underground bulbs, you’ll usually see the leaves in bunches. They average around 1 to 3 feet tall.|
|Hollow leaves: From a distance it may look like grass but upon close inspection when torn you’ll notice that the leaves are hollow and tube-like similar to chives.|
|Underground bulbs: When you dig around the base and pull up the plant you’ll see it attached to a bulb (this picture shows multiple plants and bulbs).|
|Umbrella-like flower clusters: In late spring and summer you can find the purplish flower-heads containing clusters of tiny six-petaled flowers.|
|Smells “onion-like” when bruised or broken: This is the best way to distinguish the Alliums from its poisonous look-a-likes. If there’s no smell or doesn’t smell like onion IT’S NOT AN ALLIUM!!|
Where to Find Field Garlic
You can find Field Garlic on lawns, in backyards, on disturbed soil, and in open woods throughout its range.
Here’s the range map indicating where Field Garlic has officially been found:
How to Eat Field Garlic
There’s really no special preparation for Field Garlic other than cleaning the bulbs/leaves and peeling the papery sheath of the bulb as you would any onion or garlic for that matter:
After cleaning, you can use Field Garlic’s bulbs in any recipe that calls for garlic or onion and the leaves can be chopped like and used in the place of chives.
I like adding both chopped bulbs and leaves to an omelet with chopped bacon — yummm 🙂
- Posted in Wild Edibles