Wild onions are members of the onion family which grow naturally in the wild, rather than being specifically cultivated. They can be found all over the world, and several species are treated as culinary delicacies, such as the ramp, also known as Allium tricoccum. Gardeners sometimes find these members of the onion family irritating, because they can be difficult to eradicate from flowerbeds and lawns.
Like cultivated onions, wild onions have a distinctive sharp flavor and scent. Many have a very strong odor, which can sometimes make them very easy to identify when they are growing in the wild. As a general rule, the leaves, bulb, and flowers of the onions can all be eaten, with most people concentrating on the leaves, rather than the bulb, as these onions tend to develop small bulbs with shallow roots.
There are a variety of ways to use wild onions, which may also be called wild leeks in some regions of the world. They can be used in many of the same dishes domestic onions are used in, and they can also be grilled, chopped and used as a garnish, roasted, cooked in sauces, and so forth. The pungent flavor and aroma can be a cause for caution, as a small amount will often go a long way.
Wild onions are usually very easy to identify. Aside from the distinctive onion smell, which is usually a good tip-off, they generally have tall, fleshy, blade-like leaves which connect with a small, shallowly-rooted bulb. When flowers appear, they emerge at the ends of tall stalks, and they generally have a slightly papery texture. Wild onions should always be washed before use, and many people peel away the outer layer of onion skin, because it tends to be tough and bitter.
For gardeners who are struggling with a wild onion invasion, there are a number of options. Some gardeners simply embrace these perennial plants, because they require minimal maintenance and the green foliage can be attractive. For gardeners who dislike the look of the plants or find the smell intolerable, the best way to deal with wild onions is to wait for them to die back, rake away the foliage, and then pass the soil through a screen to remove the bulbs. Screening will also break up lumps in the soil, making it easier to grow things in the following year.