Know your onions

30th January 2013

Three-cornered Leeks Allium triquetrum

This is a patch of Three-cornered Leeks or sometimes called Three-cornered Garlic Allium triquetrum is one of several wild “onions” growing in the UK.  This one is thought to be an introduced species from southern Europe and is generally found in the southwest and along the south coast but there are populations around London and the home counties.  It certainly seems to be very localised, and the few colonies that I’m aware of locally do not seem to be spreading.  You generally find it like here on roadsides, field edges, woodland and along hedge banks.

This particular patch seems quite late compared to other reports I’ve had from around the country, where in some areas it has already been producing flowers, even before Christmas. It is not particularly tolerant of frost or wet summers so the weather in this area over the last 6 months may account for that.

The easiest time to spot it, is when it’s flowering as the snow white, drooping bell shaped flowers stand out against the bright green leaves. It is quite distinct from Ramsons A. ursinium and looks almost like a white Bluebell.  The flower stem has a triangular cross-section, hence the name and the leaves are narrow often with a distinct “keel” down the middle.

The garlic smell is often what gives it away and certainly aids its identification, however taste wise it is much milder than Ramsons and is more akin to spring onions.  It is certainly mild enough to use raw in salads, but when in abundance use the leaves chopped as a direct replacement for onions although you need quite a lot as it reduces alot during cooking. We use it with Dandelions, Bramble, and Nettles to create  fried spring greens.

Kev Palmer


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