Wild onion and garlic (Allium species)
Allium cernuum and Allium canadense are examples of the many species of wild onions and garlics, all easily recognized by their distinctive onion-like or garlic-like odor. Many have leaves located at the base that wither away as the flowers begin growing but the main leaves (typically 1-12 leaves) are waxy textured, grass-like, straight or slightly coiled (some are tube-like), linear with grooved or flat leaf blades.
The white, greenish-white or reddish pink colored, star-shaped flowers of this edible plant form a dome-shaped umbel (many flowers on stems that are shaped like umbrella ribs) at the top of a leafless stalk. The outer flowers bloom first and the inner flowers bloom later. Bulbs vary is size and are typically brown or gray in color, with a smooth texture covering a fibrous outer layer (inner layers of the bulbs have stringy membranes). The seeds are round and black, sometimes brown or light brown.
Where to Find: Wild onions and garlics are found in open, sunny areas throughout the world in temperate regions. They are widespread in North America. Cultivated varieties are found anywhere in the world and are especially popular with gardeners. Wild onions prefer dry, well drained soils but some will grow in more organic soils. Most species prefer full sun but some will grow in shade (e.g., forests) or even in stagnant water or near slow-flowing rivers.
Edible Parts: The bulbs and young leaves are edible raw or cooked. Use in soup or to flavor meat.
Note: There are several plants with onion-like bulbs that are extremely poisonous. Be certain that the plant you are using is a true onion or garlic. Do not eat bulbs with no onion smell.
Ingesting excessive quantities can cause stomach aches, especially in small children.
Other Uses: Eating large quantities of onions will give your body an odor that will help to repel insects. Garlic juice works as an antibiotic on wounds.