The Eldest knew immediately from the pungent odor that these lovely flowers were wild onions. Merriwether’s informative foraging web page helped us to confirm our suspicions. Also called wild garlic or meadow garlic, wild onion comes from the Allium family.
Allium was the Latin name for the onion. Some herbalists think the name comes from the Celtic word “all” meaning pungent. “Alla” in Celtic means feiry. Canadense means of Canada, but refers to north North America. Tricoccum means three seeds. Roman’s called garlic the “stinking rose”.
Conducting an internet set for “wild onions” leads us to endless pages on how to “rid your yard of onion grass or wild onions”. I try to hide my disappointment. Why not forage? I make a vow to keep from disparaging weeds in front of the little people- to honor what we find in abundance without demanding that our lawn “look like all the others”.
I want to give my girls something to hold against a culture that tells them they should want to look like every other girl. That a “good lawn” is one that looks perfectly manicured, sterile, similar, immaculate perfection. So I offer our yard as an example of natural beauty- and how much nature has to offer if we honor it as we find it.
Looking at the tiny bulbs ready to burst with the miniscule onions, lifting my fingers to my nose to be sure of the scent, I think of the time Prophet found me in the kitchen, slicing onions for a salad.
“Why are you crying, mommy?” she asked.
“It’s the onions,” I replied, smiling through blurred eyes, “They make me cry.”
“Then I don’t like onions- if they make you sad.”
I remember how strange it felt to try and explain that I liked cutting onions- that I enjoyed the way they cleared my eyes, savored the way they made me cry.
Rather than allow them to be mowed down by the lawnmower, we decided to harvest the onions. But when are wild onions ideally harvested? The Eldest runs inside to consult his sacred text, the book given to him by our neighbors, the Brooks, a few years ago.
Wild onion (Allium canadense)
Thus we find ourselves in the thrall of another wild plant- another afternoon devoted to discovering the mystery of the weeds beneath our noses. Another day where the lessons we planned are not quite the lessons we learned. My heart swells with gratitude.