Wild onions mark arrival of spring for many
After digging wild onions with a shovel, Tad Dunham of Eucha, Okla., pulls the stalks of onions out of the dirt and shakes them off before placing them in a bucket. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Tad Dunham of Eucha, Okla., uses a shovel to dig wild onions, which he will use to season food and cook with eggs, a spring tradition in the eastern part of the state. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Patches of green, wild onions can easily be seen in northeastern Oklahoma woods in spring. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Wild onions picked by Cherokee Nation citizen Tad Dunham of Eucha, Okla., will be taken to a nearby stream to be cleaned and then his home for more cleaning before they are cut into small pieces and cooked with eggs. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tad Dunham cuts wild onions he picked on his land into one-inch pieces before cooking them with eggs. Wild onions and eggs are a springtime favorite for many Cherokee families in Oklahoma. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Tad Dunham pours cooked wild onion and eggs into a large bowl in his kitchen in Eucha, Okla. The mixture of wild onions and eggs is spring tradition in the Cherokee Nation. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
EUCHA, Okla. – The multitude of green stems poking out of beds of leaves are easily distinguishable from the surrounding landscape. The patches of wild onions on Tad Dunham’s land near Eucha are something he looks forward to every spring.
Using a shovel, he slices into the damp bottomland to unearth a bundle of onions. Dunham, a Cherokee Nation citizen, pulls the stalks of onions from the loose dirt, shakes off the excess dirt and places the onions in a plastic bucket. He then carefully places the dirt he pushed up with his shovel back into ground to keep from disturbing the land too much and to ensure the onion patch will provide a crop next spring.
“These are what I call wooded onions, and they usually pop out of the ground the first of March. The river onions, they start getting them the first of February,” he said. “These are a little bit short right now, but give them a couple of weeks and they’ll be bigger onions. They sure have a good flavor though.”
He said, like most people in the area, he eats the onions with eggs. He also seasons brown beans and fried potatoes with wild onions.
“Actually, anything you can use onions for you can use these wild onions, and I think they just do a better job,” he said.
Growing up near Strang, Dunham said he used to pick wild onions with his Cherokee mother.
“She probably knew all the onion patches in a 50-mile radius, and every spring she would have us out there digging wild onions, and we had a lot of fun doing that, running around in the woods digging onions. And then when we got back to the house, she wouldn’t let anybody help her clean them, and that was the hard part,” Dunham said.
After picking the onions he wants, Dunham takes them to a nearby stream and washes off the dirt. He then takes the onions to his house where he washes them again in a sink, places them in a bowl, gets a cutting board and knife and then cuts the roots off the onion stalks.
He then chops up the onions in one-inch pieces and places the pieces in boiling water for five to 10 minutes to soften them. The onions are then placed in cooking oil for about two minutes before they are used to season other foods or cooked with eggs.
“I grew up on bacon grease and lard. Nowadays, we try to be a little more healthful, so now we use olive oil or canola oil,” he said.
When cooking the onions with eggs, he and his wife Linda beat about a dozen eggs in a bowl before mixing them with a half-pound or three-quarter pound of onions. The eggs and onions are constantly stirred in the skillet for about 15 minutes until completely cooked.
On this day, Linda warms up ham and bakes biscuits to serve with the onions.
Tad said he appreciates having a heritage of living off the land. He has fruit trees near his house and grows potatoes. He picks black walnuts, wild mushrooms and black haws, which are a dark-black berry fruit that grows on his land. Also, his grandchildren hunt deer on his land, and the family has a pond for fishing.
“We can pretty well sustain ourselves, weather permitting, off of this property,” he said.
ᎤᏥ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ. – ᎤᎪᏓ ᎢᏤᎢᎶᏍᏗ ᎠᎦᏌᏛᏍᎦ ᎤᎦᎶᎦ ᎦᎵᎨᏴ ᎭᏫᎾᏗᏢ ᎠᎯᏓ ᎪᏟᏍᏗ ᎾᎥ ᏯᎦᏖᏃᎵ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅᎢ. ᏚᏓᏈᎾᎢ ᎤᏰᎬ ᏒᎩ ᎢᎾᎨ ᏒᎯ ᎾᎿ Tad Dunham ᎤᏤᎵᎪ ᎦᏙ ᎤᏥ ᏃᎥᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎦᏖᏃᎰᎢ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎪᎨᏯ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏔᏂᎦ.
ᎪᏕᏍᏗ ᎬᏗᏍᎪᎢ, ᎤᏬᏕᏫᏛ ᎦᏙ ᎡᎳᏗ ᏳᏁᏈᏛᎭ ᎪᏕᏍᏗ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏒᎩ ᎠᏰᎯᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ. Dunham ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ, ᏂᎦᏓ ᏒᎩ ᏂᎬᏁᏕᏍᎪ ᎾᎿ ᎦᏙ ᎪᏕᏍᏗ ᏳᏌᎳᏓᏂ ᎠᎴ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎦᏙ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎦᏅᎪᏅᏗᏍᎪ, ᎠᎴ ᏒᏙᏂ ᎦᏢᏍᎪᎢ. ᏃᎴ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎦᏓ ᎤᎪᏕᏒ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎤᏩᎾᏕᏍᎩ ᏂᎬᏁᎭ ᏏᏊ ᏒᎩ ᎤᏛᎯᏍᏗ ᏐᎢ ᏩᏕᏘᏴᎲᎢ ᎪᎨᏯ.
“ᎯᎢᏃ ᎢᎾᎨ ᎡᎯ ᏒᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎠᏅᏱ ᎠᎦᏌᏛᏍᎪ ᎠᏟᏱᎲᏍᎪ. ᎠᎹᏳᎵᏗ ᎡᎯ, ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎧᎦᎵ ᎧᎸ ᎠᏟᏱᎲᏍᎪ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ. “ᎯᎠᏃ ᎤᏍᏗᏊ Ꮟ ᏔᎵᎭ ᎢᏳᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᏗ ᎤᏔᎾ ᎨᏎᏍᏗ. ᎢᎦᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎩᏍᏗ ᎨᏐᎢ.”
ᎤᏛᏅᏃ, ᎾᏂᎥᏊ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎠᏁᎲ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ , ᏧᏪᏥ ᏓᏑᏴᏍᎪ ᏒᎩ ᏳᏩᏂᏍᏔᏂ. ᎾᏍᎴᏍᏉ ᎤᏂᏬᏗᎨ ᏚᏯ ᎠᎴ ᏄᎾ ᎪᎢ ᏗᎬᏂᏍᏔᏅ ᎾᎿᏊ ᎠᏑᏴᏍᎪ ᏒᎩ.
“ᏃᎴᏍᏊ, ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏊ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏒᎩ ᏨᏑᏴᏍᎪ ᎤᏠᏯ ᎢᎬᏙᏗ ᏒᎩ ᎢᎾᎨ ᎡᎯ, ᎠᎴ ᏓᏤᏟ ᎨᎵᏍᎪ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ
ᎠᏆᏛᏒ ᎾᎥ ᎧᎸᏌᏛᏗ, Dunham ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏲᎲ ᏒᎩ ᎢᎾᎨ ᎡᎯ ᎤᏥ ᎠᏁᎨ ᎠᏣᎳᎩᏃ ᎨᏒ ᎤᏥᎢ.
“ᏂᎦᏓᏃ ᏒᎩ ᎤᏟᏰᏗ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ ᎯᎦᏍᎪ ᎢᏳᏟᎶᏓ ᎢᏗᏝᏊ ᎨᏒ ᎤᏅᏛᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏂᎪᎸ ᎪᎨᏯ ᎣᏤᎬ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏒᎩ ᎣᎩᏯᎴᎪᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎢᎦ ᎤᏬᏢᏛ ᎣᏤᏙᎰ, ᎣᏣᏝᎢᏙᎰ ᎢᎦᎨ ᏒᎩ ᎣᎩᏲᎲᎢ. ᎠᎴ ᏳᏬᎩᎷᏥ ᏦᎨᏅᏒ, Ꮭ ᎩᎶ ᏯᎵᏍᎪᎸᏓᏁᎮ ᎤᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎢᎬᏁᎸᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏩᏍᏓᏴ ᎨᏒ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Dunham.
ᏳᏰᎯᏌᏃ ᎤᏚᎵᏍᎬ ᎢᎦ ᏒᎩ, Dunham ᏃᏊ ᎠᏫᏗᏍᎪ ᏒᎩ ᎠᎹᏳᏟᏗ ᎫᎯᎶᏍᎪ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎦᏓ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎦᏅᎦᎵᏍᎪ. ᏃᏊᏃ ᏧᏪᏅᏒ ᎠᏫᏗᏍᎪ ᏒᎩ ᏏᏊ ᎢᎫᎯᎶᏍᎪ ᏖᎵᏙᎩ ᎦᏢᏍᎪ, ᏯᏖᏂ ᏩᏱᏍᎪ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎬᎭᎷᏯᏍᎪᎢ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎤᎾᏍᏕᏢ ᏓᎦᎵᏍᎪᎢ.
ᏃᏊ ᎠᎬᎭᎷᏯᏍᎪ ᏌᏊ ᎢᏏᏔᏗᏍᏗ ᎢᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᏂᎬᏁᎰᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎼ ᎦᏢᏍᎪ ᎯᏍᎩᎭ ᎠᎴ ᏍᎪᎯ ᎢᏳᏔᏬᏍᏔᏅ ᎢᎪᎯᏓ ᏩᏂᎨ ᏂᎬᏁᎰ. ᏃᏊᏃ ᎦᏢᏍᎪ ᎤᏩᏖᏌᏗ ᎪᎢ ᎬᏂᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᏔᎵᎭ ᎢᏳᏔᏬᏍᏔᏅ ᏃᏊ ᎠᏑᏴᏍᎪ ᏄᏓᎴ ᎠᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏪᏥ.
“ᎠᏆᏛᏏᏃ ᎭᏫᏯ ᎬᏂᏍᏔᏅ ᎪᎢ ᎣᏨᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᏃᏊᏃ ᏥᎩ, ᎢᏓᏁᎸᏗᏍᎪ ᏄᏓᎴ ᏙᎯ ᎢᎬᏁ ᎢᏗᏰᎸᎢ ᎢᎬᏙᏗᏱ, ᏯᏛᎾ ᎣᎵᏆ ᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎧᏃᎵ ᎪᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏩᏂᏍᏛ ᏧᏪᏥ ᏱᏙᏛᏑᏴᎾ, ᎤᏩᏌ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏓᎵᎢ Linda ᏓᎾᏑᏰᏍᎪ ᏔᎳᏚ ᏧᏪᏥ ᏖᎵᏙᎩᎢ Ꮟ ᎾᎾᏑᏴᏍᎬ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎠᎴ ᏦᎩᏄᏗ ᎢᏳᏓᎨᏓ ᏒᎩ ᎤᏅᏂᏍᏛᎢ ᎾᎿᏃ ᏫᏓᎵᏢᏍᎪ ᏗᏑᏰᎲ ᏧᏪᏥ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏧᏪᏥ ᎠᎴ ᏒᎩ ᎠᎾᏑᏰᏍᎪ ᎤᏩᏖᏌᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏍᎩᎦᏚ ᎢᏔᏬᏍᏔᏅ ᎢᎪᎯᏓ ᎤᏩᏅᏒ ᏱᏄᎵᏍᏔᏂ ᎢᎪᎯᏓ.
ᎯᎢᏃ ᎢᎦ, Linda ᎠᎨᏃᏗᏍᎪ ham ᎠᎴ ᏕᎦᏚᎲᏍᎪ ᎦᏚ ᎤᏂᏣᎴᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎪᎢ.
Tad ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎵᎮᎵᎪ ᎾᎿ ᎬᏩᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎢᎾᎨ ᎡᎯ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎬᏁᎳᏁᎸ. ᎠᏓᏔᏅᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᎦᎾᏍᏗ ᏕᏈᎦ ᎤᏪᏅᏒ ᎾᎥᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏄᎾ ᏓᏛᎯᏍᏗᏍᎪ. ᏎᏗᏃ ᏓᏄᏖᏍᎪ, ᏓᏬᎵ ᎢᎾᎨ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᎴ ᎧᏂᎦ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᎾᎨ ᎨᏐ ᎠᏓᏛᏍᎪᎢ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎩᏍᏗ. ᎠᎴᏗᏍᏊ, ᏧᎵᏏ ᎠᏂᏃᎭᎵᏙᎭ ᎾᎿ ᎤᎲ ᎦᏓ, ᎠᎴ ᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏓᎵ ᎤᏃᏢ ᎤᎾᏑᏂᏓᏍᏗᎢ. “ᎡᎵᏊᏃ ᏱᏃᏣᏛᎦ ᏲᏣᎵᏍᏓᏴᎲᎦ ᎣᎬᏌ, ᏙᏯ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᎬ ᏲᎦᎵᏍᎪᎸᏓᏁᎯ, ᎾᎿ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎦᏓ ᎣᎩᎲᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.