Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
April 8, 2000 - Issue 07

Wild Onion Season Bridges Tradition With a Good Meal
by Gerald Woffard

Tahvmpe, or 'Dah-fum-bih' is what the Muscogee call it. 'En-na-geh-eh-sug' is how the Cherokees pronounce it. Whatever the tribe, or how they title it, Wild Onions has always been a seasonal culinary favorite among Indians in Northeastern Oklahoma.

No one knows for sure when and where Indian tribes began to pick Wild Onions, and how they have chosen to cook them for that matter. Ask just about anyone who picks a lot Wild onions, and you may receive many unique answers on how they prepare it. But the choices made in preparing it are just as unique as the Indian person performing this historic art is

Wild onions are a green plant that can grow as early as the month of November, but usually grows during the months of January, February, and March. Drivers that frequent old, country roads with a passing creek near by, or a less traveled county road, probably drive right by an enormous amount of these onions by the damp way side. To the untrained eye, they look like nothing more than average green grass growing in the wild. But to the serious picker, wild onions aren't just spotted; they can be smelled from a good walking distance

Cinda Wind, a Muscogee citizen, has been picking wild onions for about 70 years. Although she is physically unable to continue this historic tradition now, she still recalls who taught her all about this wonderful source of food. "My Daddy taught me all about the onions, he showed me how to fish, how to cook frybread, and everything. He was a cook. He showed me those things when I was six years old."

Cinda warns to those just learning to pick wild onions to guard against growing plants that may look similar to wild onions, but are mere imposters.

"You have to watch out for koke-poison," she says. "It's got flowers that grow right in the middle. It's got a bigger head than wild onions and it don't smell right. It doesn't smell too good. You'll get real sick if you eat that. My Daddy used to tell me that you'll get stomach cramps, and you'll feel real bad, so don't bother it. So, I never did."

Although Cinda shares her personal experiences with wild onions, and her favorite ways to pick it. Each onion picker is unique in their own right. As far as picking and cooking the onions:

"You just cut them, clean them up, and wash them. Just get a skillet - a big skillet - and put some grease in there. Put the onions in there along with a little warm water. Let them go to cooking. Then after a while, when they go to getting done and get tender, you can put a little bit of eggs in there, as many eggs as you like. Then stir it up, and stir it up until it gets done, then it's ready to eat. That's all I know. I like to eat salt meat with mine. Somebody laughed at me, but I said I like salt meat. I don't care." she laughs.

The season of Wild Onions is deeply engrained in many Indians' lives both young and old, more than what some may admit to. One may stop to think how each season an herbal plant grows and is able to bring sustenance to an Indian Community. Perhaps that it grows near the end of winter and embraces the promise of a new spring, where there is renewal and new life. Many Indian Churches plan revivals, and big community dinners around the arrival of wild onions. To many native people who have gone off to the big cities and left their small communities behind, the essence of wild onions cooking over a hot stove is the only presence they may have of their early upbringings. The idea of a plate of hot juicy wild onions brings some thing to look forward to.

Sometimes it's not even as far away as one's own back yard.

Wild Onions Recipe:

  • Clean & cut onions.
  • Pour three ounces of cooking oil or one-half cup of grease, preferably pure lard, into skillet or pot.
  • Add onions.
  • Cook & stir onions until soft.
  • Add two eggs (more depending upon amount of onions).
  • Stir and simmer covered on low heat for 30-45 minutes.
  • Serve with salt meat if desired.

    Ojawashkwawegad (Wild Green Salad)Algonquin
    1 c Wild onions -=OR=- leeks, -- well chopped
    1 qt Watercress
    1/4 c Sheep -=OR=- wood sorrel
    1 1/2 c Dandelion leaves

    1/3 c Sunflower seed oil
    1/3 c Cider vinegar
    3 tb Maple syrup
    3/4 ts Salt
    1/4 ts Black pepper

    Toss together the salad ingredients. Combine the dressing ingredients; mix well. Toss the salad in the dressing; serve.

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