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Eating Wild Onions Good Idea Or Not?

Ask the Expert: fake wild onion?
During an overnight trip on the Smith River, one of our guides picked a wild onion to show us.  However, he said that there was another plant that was very similar but could kill you in 4 hours if ingested. He said it was called “death canis” (I”m not sure of the spelling).  Can you tell me if this is true?

I have all these great wild onions but I’m afraid to eat them. Patricia

Plant Expert Reply:

Meadow Death Camas

Meadow Death Camas

I’m not sure what plant the guide was referring to – Montana has a poisonous plant called Mountain Death-camas (Zigadenus venenosus). The leaves might look like onion leaves but it would really be a stretch. See how flat the leaves are? They look more like a lily leaf than an onion leaf even through they are in the same family. Onion leaves tend look more cylindrical.

Wild Onion

Wild Onion

As for eating the wild onions in your yard, I probably wouldn’t. Not because the plant is poisonous, more because of the taste. The onion genus – Allium has many members. However, not all have a pleasing taste. The wild onion and garlic species tend to be more pungent than the cultivated species.

If your wild onions are in your lawn, you need to be aware of their exposure to chemicals. I am always cautious when it comes to eating wild vegetation. However, all Allium bulbs are edible even if not palatable.

The Meadow Death-camas picture comes from the poisonous plant section of the Montana Plant Life site.

The Wild onion photo came from the Pacific Bulb Society Allium page.

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