Onion, Nodding

Allium cernuum – Onion, Nodding


Onion, NoddingAllium cernuum

Allium = a-lee-um, from Greek name for garlic;

cernuum = L. “drooping, curving forwards”;

Identification: This perennial plant grows 10-50 cm tall, with an umbel of nodding pink or white flowers. The basal leaves are flat or channeled and fleshy. The root is very similar to the cultivated green onion. Nodding onion has a distinct onion odour which distinguishes it from the poisonous plant it closely resembles, death camas. If you’re going to eat the plant, make sure of its odour.

Distribution & Habitat: Nodding onion is found in diverse habitats ranging from subalpine meadow, to parkland, prairie, open slopes, thickets and rock slides.

Preparation & Uses: This easy-to-find onion is a good choice in salads and in all onion or garlic dishes. The bulb can be easily stored for winter use. The Blackfoot did this and called them Pis-satse -miakim. The taste is between onion and garlic. The tops are as good as the bulbs, but are a little stronger than normal green onions. They are delicious in stews and soups.

Backpacker onion soup is quite a favourite with some people. You take three cups of water, three beef bouillon cubes, about one cup chopped onion (whole plant). Heat to boil and simmer for a few minutes. Season with salt, pepper, soy sauce and adding anything else that tickles your culinary fancy.

Onions are listed as stimulant, carminative, antiseptic, diuretic and expectorant.

The juice of wild onions can be boiled down until it is thick and can be used as a treatment for colds and throat irritations. Honey can be added to this mixture.

Onions are natural antiseptics, warding off bacteria and fungi. Try putting crushed garlic or onion under a glass with some bacteria or fungi — the latter will die. The Dakota and Winnebago Indians applied the crushed bulb of this genus to relieve pain of insect stings and to act as a repellent.

I have often chewed garlic cloves to get rid of colds and flu. This is not always socially acceptable when mixing with people. A way to get around this is to suck on some cloves (the type your mother puts in the ham), after you have eaten the raw garlic. This will sweeten you breath and make it quite pleasant.

Both onion and garlic can be used for stopping fermentation in the intestines, so if you have gas problems when eating various foods, maybe spicing them up with onion and garlic will help. Garlic and onion are supposed to restore sexual potency which has been impaired by mental stress or illness.

All of the Allium species have been shown to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and overall cholesterol. These herbs are antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal.

The Blackfoot Indians often took an infusion of the bulb to stop vomiting and to enable the patient to retain his food. Mixing Allium spp. with Monarda in an infusion, by contrast, produces vomiting when consumed.

Nursing women would often eat onions to transfer the medicinal effect to their child. When a Blackfoot Indian had a swollen penis with severe constipation, a rink made from an infusion of the bulb was taken. Snuff was made from the dried bulb to open the sinuses. Crushed onion can be put on burns to soothe them and stop blisters from forming.

Caution: One should take care when collecting this plant and not confuse it with death camas (Zigadenus spp.) It often grows in the same areas and is similar in appearance. The easiest way to tell the difference is that nodding onion smells like onions, whereas death camas does not. A mistake could prove fatal if the wrong species is eaten.