Onion Weed

Photo by Julie Bennett

This prolific weed has an instantly distinguishable aroma, outing it as a versatile substitute for leeks, onions and even garlic.

Onion weed (Allium triquetrum) is pretty edible which has many uses in the kitchen. All parts of the plant are edible; from the flower right down to the bulb and they make an excellent alternative to young leeks, or while you’re waiting to harvest the first of your garlic.

Onion weed thrives in wet and shady areas and is often found along creek edges, roadside drains and backyards. Onion weed reproduces two ways, which is why it’s so prolific in some areas. It spreads by seeds which form after flowering and also vegetatively, by the production of numerous underground bulblets.

How To Identify It

Also known as three-corner garlic or wild leek, onion weed is an upright herbaceous perennial which grows to a height of between 10–50 centimetres. It grows from a bulb under the soil and can be seen in the autumn and winter months when it starts growing above the ground.

The leaves emerge in a clump at the base of the plant and range in width between five and 20 millimetres. The bell-shaped flowers, which appear from April through to August, form in clusters of about half a dozen at the top of a long three-sided spike. This flower stem has a triangular-shaped cross-section, which is where the ‘tri’ in its botanical name comes from. The 15-millimetre-long flowers hang from the top of the spike and have six petals, each which feature a thin green line down its centre.

Onion weed will pull out of the ground in a similar way to spring onions to reveal a small white bulb ranging in size between five and 20 millimetres wide. The bulbs are white in colour and, much like an onion, have a transparent membrane.

How To Eat It

Because the whole plant is edible, onion weed becomes a hugely versatile plant in the kitchen. With a more subtle flavour profile than conventional onion or garlic, the leaves can be eaten raw in salads, used in stews, soups and stir fries, or the whole young plant can be trimmed like a young leek and grilled.

The white flowers make a pretty addition to a salad, or they can be dehydrated and sprinkled over any dish where you’d like a subtle garlic flavour. The bulbs can be used exactly as you would either garlic or spring onions, and are particularly delicious when preserved like a pickled onion (see breakout).

As with most plants in the allium family, onion weed has antiviral, anti bacterial and antifungal properties and can act as a cleanser for the circulatory system.

Pickled bulbs

INGREDIENTS

2 cups onion weed bulbs

2 tbsp salt

2 cups water

2 cups apple-scrap vinegar

¼ cup raw sugar

½ tbsp pickling spice

METHOD

Combine salt and water in a bowl and stir until dissolved. Peel skins from bulbs and add to the brine making sure all are covered. Stand at room temperature overnight. Drain and rinse well under cold water before transferring to a sterilised jar, seasoning as you go.

In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and pickling spice (we use a mix of crushed bay leaves, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, allspice, ground ginger, cinnamon and chilli flakes) and stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and pour the hot liquid into your jar, covering the bulbs before sealing tightly.

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