Alternatives lead to healthier wild onion recipes

03/22/2018 12:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Dirt is shaken off of wild onion stalks after they are dug out of the ground in Delaware County. Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian Tonya Swim says there are healthier alternatives for preparing the plant than cooking in grease or lard. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Green wild onion stalks can be seen growing in Delaware County. Traditionally, Cherokee people gather wild onion in February, March and April. After they are cleaned and cut, the onions are traditionally mixed with eggs and cooked in a skillet. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Gathered wild onions are seen in a plastic bucket. The plants were taken to a water source where excess dirt was washed away and the onions’ roots cut off. The cleaned onions were then chopped and cooked. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
After being cleaned, wild onions are chopped into smaller pieces and usually mixed with eggs to be cooked. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
SALINA – Every year when spring arrives, so do the sprouts of bright green stems in the woods and hollows known to Cherokees as wild onions.

Wild onions are often cooked with grease or lard and are boiled or pan-fried. Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian Tonya Swim said there are healthier alternatives for preparing the plant.

“A lot of people use lard or bacon grease and that’s a flavor enhancer. So an option that you can do instead using some sort of bacon grease or high-fat product would be to add some sort of stock, like vegetable stock, that would be able to add flavor without the extra fat,” she said.

Swim said wild onions could also be cooked using vegetable oil when pan-fried.

“If you’re going to pan fry with eggs, then using a vegetable oil instead of the bacon grease or lard would be a healthier choice,” she said.

She added that they could be used in other recipes to replace related plants such as chives or scallions. “You can basically replace anything that would have what we call little green onions or chives. Anything that would have those as an ingredient you can…use the wild onions to replace that in pretty much any recipe.”

She said one piece of wild onion contains approximately 20 calories, 4.65 gram of carbohydrates, and 0.96 grams of protein. It also contains 0.06 grams of fat but is rich in vitamins such as vitamins K and C.

“I know that this is a very traditional thing for people. We as dietitians, we try to offer healthier alternatives,” Swim said. “The recipes that they use are individual per family. They have their own special twist. They have their own special take and they hold those near and dear to their heart.”

Swim provided two recipes, one for traditional wild onions and the other containing wild onions as an alternative ingredient.

Recipes are courtesy of the University of Kansas American Indian Health and Diet Project and can be found at

Wild Onions
1 cup of chopped wild onions (peel tough outer portion of bulb and cut away roots)
1 cup of vegetable stock
In heated frying pan or skillet, cook the onions in the stock until the water is almost gone. Then add desired seasonings (e.g. pepper and garlic).
Add 6 stirred scrambled eggs (turkey, duck, goose or chicken) and cook until done, or just add onions to other dishes.

Super Dip
1 cup of tomato salsa (finely blended)
½ cup of diced bell pepper
1 cup of hominy
½ cup of wild onions (or scallions from the store)
1 chopped jalapeno (or if preferred mild, use ¼ cup of pickled jalapenos)
1 cup of chopped tomatoes
1 cup of black-eyed peas
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Mix in bowl, cover and let sit for at least 12 hours to marinate.
Serve with homemade tortillas.
About the Author • 918-772-4223
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing in journalism. She started working for the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016. Working for the Cherokee Phoenix, Lindsey hopes to ...


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