identifying wild onions?
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Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
identifying wild onions? on 06/15/2010 08:08:00 MDT Print View

Where I hike in California, miner's lettuce is plentiful, and it's incredibly easy to identify, so I like to use it for trail nibbles or salads with meals. I would like to add some variety to my salads by adding wild onions to the mix. I believe they're pretty common, especially in wet meadows. Has anyone here successfully gathered wild onions in California? I've studied up on the botany, but what worries me a little is the possibility of confusing it with death camas; the difference would be obvious when the flowers were in bloom, but I think the flowers might not be in bloom as late as summer, and that might make it harder to tell them apart. The onion smell is supposed to be pretty definitive, I guess. Onions have large papery bracts under the umbels -- but do these persist after the flowers are no longer in bloom?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: identifying wild onions? on 06/15/2010 09:41:16 MDT Print View

"Has anyone here successfully gathered wild onions in California?"

Yes. Look for them in the marshy margins along lake outlet streams up to ~10,500'. The leaves look a lot like daffodil leaves(both are members of the lily family) and, when rubbed, emit that telltale onion smell. You will have to dig them out with a sharp stick, potty trowel, etc. If they are flowering, it is even easier to identify them. The leaves can be a little fibrous, but are still very tasty, and the white part is a little tough but still edible and very tasty in soups, mashed potatoes, etc, or stuffed in the belly of a trout before baking in foil.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
wild onions on 06/15/2010 09:50:05 MDT Print View

Yes, just what Tom said. I've gathered them to add to the usual Top Ramen noodle bowl. Makes a great addition to the flavor.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: wild onions on 06/15/2010 10:09:01 MDT Print View

There is a small campground just east of Kearsarge Pass in the Sierra Nevada Range, named Onion Valley. Guess what grows there?

--B.G.--

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
flowers? on 06/15/2010 13:32:02 MDT Print View

Thanks, folks, for the help! When you collected them, were they flowering, or am I correct in my impression that they only flower very early in the year?

Any idea which species tend to be most common? I'm thinking maybe these three:
red - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium_obtusum
Sierra - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium_campanulatum
swamp - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium_validum
The red Sierra onion is usually prostrate. The Sierra onion is about 8 inches tall, and usually has two leaves that wither early in the year. The swamp onion is several feet tall, and has tall, blade-shaped leaves.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: flowers? on 06/15/2010 17:20:09 MDT Print View

"When you collected them, were they flowering, or am I correct in my impression that they only flower very early in the year?"

My experience with them has always been in August/September. I'm guessing the ones I gathered were the Sierra Onion, but they definitely weren't withered and were perhaps 8-10 inches tall. I can't remember how many leaves, it's been a while since I've gathered any. If you are in any doubt, rub a leaf and the smell will tell you whether or not it's an onion. It's pretty unmistakeable.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: flowers? on 06/15/2010 17:28:07 MDT Print View

Go to Onion Valley, west of Independence, around the first of August. They'll be all over the place.

--B.G.--

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
wild onion on 06/23/2010 20:54:26 MDT Print View

Just collected a ton in Kings Canyon last week...added to my dinner for a flare of flavor! haha

Very easy to identify by the smell

Jeff Antig
(Antig)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: identifying wild onions? on 06/23/2010 21:10:07 MDT Print View

Where in SoCal did you find miner's lettuce?

The difference from death camas is in the bulb that attaches to the flower--it does not have to be fully bloomed! Also death camas does not smell like onion. Also as a note, cut the root--if you get a slimy liquid, don't eat it.

Edited by Antig on 06/23/2010 21:11:19 MDT.