I say garlic, you say onions

Posted Apr 7th, 2010 in Eating Niagara

I say garlic, you say onions

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Turns out, we would both be right. At least when it comes to my harvest over the weekend of wild garlic. And wild onions.

My foraging garnered a debate about what I really found growing in the wilds of Niagara and subsequently made into soup. Well, my mom did anyway.

Time For Grub Blogs - soup
My wild harvest-turned-meal compliments of my mom's cooking

I headed out last Friday with an image of wild garlic in my mind's eye: it had hollow, chive-like leaves and small bulbs. It was an image painted for me by the person who awoke my forager within, @inhabitingtrees. But soon after unearthing what appeared to obviously be wild garlic on the cusp of the Niagara College vineyard, I harvested an even more pungent wild aromatic atop the escarpment in the Woodend Conservation Area. Only difference was, this clump of white bulbs was attached to flat-leafed greens.

One commenter on my first foraging post said I had found wild onions. Linda, my trusty vegetable lady, said wild garlic came equipped with flat leaves. My mom, with whom I shared my harvest, wondered if perhaps my repressed cave woman led me to wild leeks.

All I knew was whatever I found tasted good raw. But I'll admit, I was definitely confused.

Well, I have an answer to this foraging mystery, thanks to the Missouri Botanical Garden, which describes both wild onion and wild garlic as a pest. Food growing in the wild — free food — a pest? Pshaw.

Anyway, the MBG says wild garlic is indeed the bulbous plant topped with hollow, chive-like leaves while wild onion has the flat greenery. My mom was way off in her assessment because wild leeks have much broader flat leaves.

So, it turns out that in my first foray into foraging, I found not one, but two, wild aromatics, scoring myself both onion and garlic.

Time For Grub Blogs - onion
After letting them soak to loosen the dirt I couldn't shake off after prying the bulbs from the earth, I had what I thought amounted to a decent harvest, to boot.

My mother thought otherwise. She turned my find into soup, supplementing the broth with leeks and potatoes to create a vichysoisse. I'm not really sure now how my harvest tastes in soup form because I have no idea if the flavour I was tasting was more wild or store-bought aromatic. Still, there was something rewarding about using my find in a meal.

My next hunt: wild leeks and dandelions. Today, I spoke to chef Erik Peacock from Wellington Court in St. Catharines who told me the Brock University campus is teeming with "bazillions" of wild leeks. Another one of the folks I follow on Twitter shared his tale of picking dandelions for an Easter salad. My interest piqued, he urged me to get out soon before the tender greens turn into tough weeds.

I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I have to curb a sudden inner cave womanly urge to start sporting a loin cloth.

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