Wild Onion Season
For Muscogee people, like other Southeastern tribes, wild onion gathering is a practice that has been passed down from previous generations and is still valued and practiced today.
Wild onions or, in the Muscogee language, tafvmpuce (daw-fum-boh-gee) begin sprouting in February and March. Sometimes if the weather is warm and wet they can be found growing as early as the middle of January.
According to Muscogee (Creek) citizen Beulah Simms in her book, Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods, “A Creek Indian has not fully prepared for the advent of summer until he has eaten his fill of wild onions in the spring, and it is even better if the meal has been shared with good friends.”
Wild onions dinners are social events that draw large crowds, but before you can have a dinner you must have a lot of onions.
I have memories of picking wild onions with my dad. He would let me stay home from school to go pick with him in his secret onion patch. It was always on this same dirt road along a fence line in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. We were outfitted with hand trowels, gloves if I wanted them, and a 5 gallon bucket.
We would set out for the wild onion patch in the morning while fasting. My dad taught us that if you are gathering, fishing or doing anything ceremonial related, you should start early in the morning and fast until around afternoon when you finish.
Wild onions grow in sandy areas like along creeks and in shady wooded areas. They must be picked when the onions are still young. If they are picked after the onions bloom, they will be poisonous. When picking wild onions, beware of a plant that is similar in appearance known as crow’s foot, which is also poisonous.
One way to tell if you are actually picking onions, is to smell the plant once it is dug. Wild onions have an onion smell and crow’s foot doesn’t . In her book, Simms stated that crow’s foot has flat leaves, but wild onions have long slender, round leaves.
To clean the onions, cut off the roots and cut away damaged outside layers and wash thoroughly in water. We never harvested every onion. We left some to repopulate for the next year. Dad would say, ‘don’t get greedy.’
The following wild onion recipe comes from Simm’s book:
4 bunches of wild onions
1⁄2 cup water
6 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons bacon grease
1 teaspoon salt
Clean and wash onions thoroughly, making sure all the soil is washed out of the leaves.
Cut into one-inch lengths. Place onions in a skillet with water and simmer until onions are tender.
If the onions are old, simmer in salt water. Pour off the water and add bacon grease and cook until the onions are wilted.
Add salt and eggs and stir until the eggs are completely cooked.
For more information about ‘Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Foods,’ visit: www.mvskokecountry.wordpress.com/hokti’s-recipe-book-of-creek-indian-foods.html.