Foraging as a Way of Life + Pickled Onionweed Recipe

Foraging as a Way of Life + Pickled Onionweed Recipe

In my early 20s, while living in the Swiss/Italian Alps I fell headfirst into the wonderful wild world of foraging and folk herbalism. I was instantly drawn to the beautiful, scented wildflowers, which I later discovered held many medicinal properties. I started delving into local library books and began to harvest, tincture, make syrups and herbal remedies for myself in my home kitchen.

GF Connections - Interview with Elite Tiny Homes Reading Foraging as a Way of Life + Pickled Onionweed Recipe 6 minutes

Thanks to Felicity Joy of Homegrown Botanica for sharing this article.

In my early 20s, while living in the Swiss/Italian Alps I fell headfirst into the wonderful wild world of foraging and folk herbalism. I was instantly drawn to the beautiful, scented wildflowers, which I later discovered held many medicinal properties. I started delving into local library books and began to harvest, tincture, make syrups and herbal remedies for myself in my home kitchen.

This curiosity around the medicinal properties of wild plants eventually led to gardening and growing my own food and medicinal herbs, something that I still do 20 years later. I have a mixed garden style, always organic, dabbling in permaculture principles, biodynamics, a bit forest garden with lots of wild companion plants & edible weeds.

Living in a small, isolated village in Italy for five years, I was fully immersed in a very traditional way of life, which rubbed off on me. The locals would regularly forage for porcini mushrooms, elderflowers, linden, and yarrow, to name a few. I loved learning from the elderly folk their traditional recipes that had been handed down from generation to generation. Many had their own ‘secret’ recipes, which varied slightly from their neighbours, and they would take great pride in watching you taste and comment on their preparations.

I'm passionate about growing my own fruit, vegetables, medicinal plants and edible weeds, and foraging for abundant wild plants that are thriving in my local environment. I'm excited by the endless variations and flavours when using seasonally available plants, as well as their incredible nutritional and medicinal properties. I love knowing exactly where my food or medicine has come from, without the big brand labels and marketing, and without using exotic plants that have travelled the globe.

Over the years I’ve created many offerings to share my passion and knowledge of foraging for wild plants and folk herbalism with others. I hope to inspire others to get to know the plants growing abundantly around them, to forage for their own food and medicine. I teach regular foraging workshops, have written, photographed and sell foraging guides, and also have an online foraging course. I focus on abundant, nutritious, so called ‘weeds’ as I feel they are the most accessible plants to many and are not endangered.

I practice slow/folk herbalism, craft botanical skincare (from plants and organic oils), and love to ecoprint and naturally dye upcycled clothing. I live on the Kapiti Coast with my two daughters, on a third of an acre packed to the brim with fruit trees, vegetables, berries, medicinal plants, wildflowers, edible weeds, natives and a beautiful old Gingko biloba tree.

During the first lockdown a few years ago I decide not to go to the supermarket to buy sprayed veges (as the local vege market was closed). Instead we simply ate what I grew in the vegetable garden or what I foraged. We ended up eating a lot of the lawn! Plantain, dandelion, puha, dock, chickweed, daisy & onionweed.

The first vege I ran out of which I really missed was brown onions. Then I remembered that onionweed is part of the onion family, and that the small bulb can be pickled. I dug up the onionweed bulbs from my garden (which grows wild there) and used these in lieu of brown onions. They weren’t exactly the same but made a great substitute and I didn’t need to go to the supermarket for anything!

Since then, I have been digging up onionweed bulbs at the end of each season and pickling them. There is so much leaf that would otherwise go to waste, that I started pickling that too, and it is delicious spooned onto salads and meals throughout the year when Allium is no longer in season.

Onionweed is also known as three cornered leek, three cornered garlic, angled onion, triangle onion (triquetrum means three). The Allium family also includes onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, and chives.

The whole plant can be eaten, leaves, bulbs and flowers, and it's most excellent raw. Slice the entire stalk fresh into salads, sprinkle into omelettes or pesto’s. Dig up, wash and pickle the bulbs just like pickled onions.

Given its sulphur content Allium might have similar medicinal properties to garlic and onions.

Allium loves to grow in damp shady places, so you may find it at the end of your abandoned garden, or beside creeks and streams. Once it gets going the bulbs multiply and spread pretty quickly, yielding year after year a supply of tasty fresh greens.

The leafless stalks, look a bit like grass stalks. Slice these in half to find a distinctive triangle shape (which gives this plant its common names). The flowers form in small clusters of adorable little white bells which hang off the tips of the stalks. Each bell-shaped white flower has five petals with a light green streak running down the middle of each petal. Allium has a very strong onion odour when touched, rubbed or sliced, this is a key identification tip. A common lookalike is Galanthus nivalis (snowdrop), which is toxic, however snowdrop has no onion smell whatsoever.

Pickled Onionweed Recipe

  • Dig up your Allium bulbs, stalks and flowers. The best time to do this is the end of winter or beginning of spring when the bulbs will be at their fattest
  • Gently scrub and wash off any dirt with running water.
  • Typically, just the bulb is pickled, however I don’t like to waste the leaves and flowers, so I pickle these too
  • If using the leaves, finely chop into small pieces
  • Pack bulbs / leaves / flowers into a sterilised glass jar
  • Add half teaspoon of mustard seeds and one crushed garlic clove to each jar
  • Cover completely with raw apple cider vinegar
  • Leave a month for flavours to infuse
  • Store and use as an onion flavoured condiment. Keep in the fridge once opened (you'll find this recipe & more info on Allium in my Wet Season Foraging Guide).

 

For more foraging & gardening inspiration & simple recipes, follow @homegrownbotanica

Check out Felicity’s website www.homegrownbotanica.co.nz for Foraging Guides, Workshops, Online Foraging course, Botanical Skincare & Plant Dyed Clothing offerings.