A forager’s dream, and a gardener’s nightmare – it’s onion weed season. Chefs Max Gordy of Graze Wine Bar and Lucie Piguet of Atlas restaurant tell us why they love this plant and give us their top tips for cooking with it.
During spring and summer onion weed pops up just about everywhere. It has a similar flavour to a spring onion, offering an easy to find (and free) alternative which can be used to level-up all kinds of dishes: salads, garnishes, pesto – you name it. The bulb, leaves, and flower of the plant are all edible so there’s no waste.
Also known as three-cornered leek, onion weed is easily identified by its white drooping bell-shaped flowers and three-cornered stalks. It looks a bit like a snowdrop, which has fatter white flowers, distinguished by green dots on the petals. If in doubt, give it a sniff and if it has an oniony scent, there’s your answer.
“I use onion weed in quite a few of my dishes. At the moment the crowd favourites at Graze would be our onion weed and goats cheese pierogi. I use it in a couple of different ways: little relishes, fermenting them, and even drying and crushing them. The options are endless really, it’s a great wild food that packs a delicious oniony/garlic flavour.
Onion weed was one of the first ‘weeds’ that I learned you could eat here in Wellington, and I remember using it to garnish the seafood risotto at Shed 5 when I worked there. A decade later I’ve used it in a bunch of different ways.
I make onion-weed powder by chopping up the stalks and bulbs, drying them out, and blending them up – this is a great way to elevate the classic Kiwi onion dip.
At the Matterhorn we would make spring onion relish by mixing finely sliced spring onions with a little white wine vinegar, salt, and olive oil. Now I substitute onion weed in the relish to top a cheese dipping sauce, and then pair it with our soft pretzels.
Each year I find a different way to use onion weed and always love the season. I avoid picking it off the roadside in case it’s been sprayed, but finding a good spray-free patch is pretty easy.”
“Onion weed marks the spring season’s take-off. It grows faithfully every spring, and we can see its drooping white flowers all around in Mount Victoria, and people’s front yards.
What’s amazing is that we can eat it all, its bulb, leaves, and flowers! The flowers are an excellent garnish, both for the delicate and fresh onion flavour when you bite into them, and for their cuteness – perfect with some grilled asparagus.
The leaves and stalk are my favourite parts for creating a super green fresh emulsion, a superb match with some milk-fed lamb and a squeeze of lemon.
The bulb can be treated like fresh onion – it can be pickled, or just grilled to go with any greens .
What’s really great is that you can preserve them for later. I did some foraging myself during the last lockdown. I washed the flowers thoroughly and added a brine to them (.e. 30g salt per litre of water), so they can be used all year long.