Friend or Foe?

dining wildonionIt was a charming plant, a gift from my neighbor, and I could just imagine its sword-shaped emerald leaves decorating the forest floor. Atop the stalks, unusually triangular in cross section, hung four to 19 frilly, white, bell-shaped flowers, each painted with fine green lines.

The plants are wild onions, or allium triquetrum, a native of south-western Europe, and all parts are edible. The tender leaves taste vaguely of onion, but with a spicy garlic aftertaste. The plants set new bulbs each year, but each flower also holds six seeds. Let’s see, that’s 24 to 114 seeds per plant. You can see how some people consider them weeds. As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em, so I set out to reduce the population by making pesto.

To tone down the onion’s flavor, I added some flat leaf parsley. In this herb’s second year it sends up an inverted umbrella of flowers, whose seeds have been dispersed into numerous patches in the yard. An abundance of fresh parsley is a problem I don’t mind having.

In a blender jar I combined one packed cup of parsley leaves and two of onion leaves, along with six onion bulbs, two tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup cashew nuts, 1/4 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn the motor off, and scrape down the sides of the blender often. The resulting paste is a pale green, sweet, and mildly spicy. Use it on grilled vegetables or meat. For a more savory sauce, substitute almonds or sunflower seeds for the cashews.

Tonight I’ll sauté some more of the leaves with collard greens, and perhaps roast some of the miniature onions. I suppose they could be pickled, too, adding a garlicky kick to the classic martini. | KP

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