Backyard Foraging: Onion Grass (just like chives!) and cream cheese recipe

14 May

Google “onion grass” and you’ll likely find a lot of advice on how to eliminate it from your lawn. It is called a weed, pesky, unsightly, annoying. But around here the unruly tufts of onion grass that start dotting the emerging lawn in spring are the among the first herbs of the season.  So the way we eliminate it is by harvesting it and eating it!

This is a nice bit just by the raise beds. Note that it is not flat but hollow, and grows to different lengths

This is a nice bit just by the raised beds. Note that it is not flat but hollow, and grows to different lengths

We don’t put down chemical fertilizers or pesticides anywhere in the yard (although the last few seasons of mosquito infestations have us wondering what other choice there is) so there is none of that in our onion grass that we know of. And while we do have plenty of birds and squirrels about, they have those on commercial farms too and we have no dogs, so a thorough washing of the onion grass is sufficient to make it ready for human consumption (This came up in an after-school playground conversation recently, so thanks to Marta for bringing it up!).

A healthy bunch of onion grass. You will have to pick through your harvest.

A healthy bunch of onion grass. You will have to pick through your harvest.

I do NOT recommend pulling it up from anywhere that you are not familiar with. You never know what people throw on their lawns in the crazed pursuit of the perfect carpet of green (heavy sigh). Or what your local government has sprayed.

 

The forager-in-training

The forager-in-training

Now let’s talk identification. As close as I can tell, the botanical name or onion grass is Allium canadense…a member of the onion and garlic (stinking rose) family and very, very similar to Allium schoenoprasum, which we know as chives. Allium canadense is noted for its clumpy appearance in early spring just as the stubble of new grass begins. The blades are actually hollow tubes and taper at the top and grow to wildly different lengths.  They may even curl. I have heard say that they sometimes have bulbs at the bottom, but ours really don’t have much.

 

The potato ricer was not really the right creaming tool. I soon switched to a fork

The potato ricer was not really the right creaming tool. I soon switched to a fork

Important note: there are several look-alike lily species that are toxic. They may or may not have the hollow stem. The general rule is: If it smells like onion, it is onion and safe to eat. If it doesn’t smell like onion, it’s not onion, so leave it be.

With crackers or veggies, or bagels, of course...the flavor of spring

With crackers or veggies, or bagels, of course…the flavor of spring

In the past, I have just snipped what I need (it is somewhat milder than chives, so you may need to double what you would normally use if you bought supermarket chives), but today when I asked my little man to get some, he just grabbed a fistful and tore and that worked out just fine!

A tub of cream cheese with onion grass! Just like chives...only free for the forager

A tub of cream cheese with onion grass! Just like chives…only free for the forager

The following recipe is just a basic cream cheese with chives. You can also try onion grass with Asian recipes or whatever else you fancy. It’s not like you had to pay for it. And as I say to my students “If it’s free, give me three!”

 

Pretty!

Pretty!

Cream cheese and chives or foraged onion grass

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2-4 Tbs chopped onion grass or chives

2 Tbs low or nonfat yogurt or sour cream or milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Garnish with additional chopped chives, if desired.

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7 Responses to “Backyard Foraging: Onion Grass (just like chives!) and cream cheese recipe”

  1. Adri May 17, 2014 at 2:56 am #

    What a great way to use the little “weeds.” I bet this tastes great.

  2. AnotherDish May 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    I have this throughout my garden in the spring (now). I smells interesting, but I didn’t ever thing of using it for culinary purposes. Unfortunately, I do fertilize the flower garden, so I can’t use it, but I’ll remember this next year. Thanks for the interesting post.

  3. Conor Bofin May 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

    Lovely and great use of the weeds!

  4. Mad Dog May 14, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    Excellent – I love foraging 😉

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy May 14, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

      It’s good fun…I missed my chance at fiddlehead ferns this year,….didn’t have enough info when I had the opportunity!

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