Thursday, April 5, 2007

Onion Snow ...

Kim at Hiraeth wants to know what an "onion snow" is .... Well ... it's a Pennsylvania saying.

Apparently, the term “onion snow” isn’t as widely known. Here in South-Central Pennsylvania, it’s a common expression for an early spring snow that comes right when the onions and garlic are peeking through the dirt in our gardens. The dark green tops of wild onions are also popping up around field edges and in yards in late March to early April. The snow that falls is no more than a dusting to a couple of inches. A heavy spring snow is called a twig bender or sapling-bender. Either type of snow does not last long.

Wild Onion / Garlic

Wild onion (A. validum or A. canadense) is a bulbous herb of the Amaryllis family and is a close relative of cultivated onion (Allium cepa L.). It has a distinct onion odor. It has slender grass-like leaves and reaches about 2' in height when flowers appear in late summer. Leaves are narrow, long, and with parallel edges arising from the small underground bulb.

Flowers, varying in color, depending on the species, from white to pink, appear at the top of a leafless stem and eventually become bulblets which drop to the ground and propagate.

And Kim, I learned this ... It is thought that the name Chicago is derived from the smell of wild onions: "Indians, mainly Potawatomi, who were the most powerful tribe around the south end of Lake Michigan, hunted, traded furs, and occasionally camped in the area they called "Checagou," evidently referring to the garlic wild onion smell which permeated the air." In teresting what you can learn.

I learned some time ago when reading about Indians in PA that they ate wild onions and garlic to keep the mosquitos at bay and used it in their cooking pots for flavor. Also did you know that garlic juice is a natural antibiotic? (My hubby loves garlic and when cold season comes around in late fall he starts eating his garlic harvest in the raw form. My bedroom reaks of garlic! He sweats the garlic smell because it really gets into your system - this is another thing - farmers hate wild onions and garlic because it taints the cows milk!)

Here are some recipes --

I remember my Gram picking them and adding them to a big cast iron skillet of fried potatoes, then she would break two eggs or more over them and finish frying them. They were delicious! She would serve them with a loaf of homemade bread and jam along with a side meat or fried ham. I can smell her coffee now ...

My hubby's side of the family would cook it like this --

Wild Onion Soup (Zuppa di Cipolle Selvatiche)

This is a typical Calabrian dish, but it is also a favorite in some Puglian villages. In Italy, you can buy wild onions in jars of oil.

You take 14 oz. Cipuddizze (wild onions, replace with the white part of scallions)

Olive oil, 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed; 1 quart of vegetable broth; 1 small hot chile pepper with stem and seeds removed; some stale bread, cubed and fried in a little olive oil; 2 oz. Pecorino romano cheese, grated; salt and pepper to taste. Clean and lightly chop the onions. In a saucepan, heat some olive oil and cook the garlic until soft. Add onions, cook a few minutes then add the vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook about another 5 minutes. Then add the chopped chile pepper. Take four soup bowls, place bread cubes that have been roasted in olive oil and then pour the soup over the bread cubes and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Add more salt if needed to your taste. Also can use some fresh chopped parsley for color and taste, but not much.

If you have pets - make sure the wild onions/garlic is rinsed well! ;-))

I have also chopped them and mixed them into butter that I whipped and put the mix over a steak fresh from the grill or add them chopped into hamburgers before you grill them. They can be added to salads also.

One word of warning -- if you pick something that looks like an small, tiny onion bulbs but has no garlic or onion smell DO NOT EAT THEM, they could make you sick. They are some type of flower weed bulbs.


  1. I remember those little bulbs! I think we had them in Kentucky, too.

    Thanks for teaching me about onion grass! And onion snow!

  2. I love learning stuff like this, thanks to you for telling and to Kim for asking.


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