Edible Wild Plants: Nodding Wild Onion (Allium Cernuum)

Nodding onion is edible, and its bulbs were widely eaten by native peoples and European settlers, either raw, cooked or dried for winter. Being strongly flavored, it is mainly used as a flavoring.

Nodding Wild Onion (Allium Cernuum)

Cooking removes the strong smell and flavor, converting the sugar inulin to the more digestible fructose, and the bulbs become very sweet. The leaves are edible, raw or cooked. They have a delicious, strong-onion flavor, and are said to be very nice in salads. The flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a delicious strong onion flavor, somewhat stronger than the leaves especially if the seeds are starting to set. They make a very decorative and tasty addition to the salad bowl.

Medicinal Uses

Nodding Onion was used medicinally by the Cherokee, Isleta, Kwakiutl, Makah, and Quinault Indians. The juice of the plant was given to children for hives and croup, as well as for colds and sore throat. A poultice of chewed plant parts was applied to the chest for pleurisy pains, croup, and otherwise applied externally for infections, sores and swellings. A poultice of warm onions was applied externally to throat for sore throat as well.

Other Uses

The juice of the plant has been used as a moth repellent. The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles. The juice can be applied to exposed skin in order to repel mosquitos and other biting insects.


There are several plants with onion like bulbs that are extremely poisonous. Be certain that the plant you are using is a true onion or garlic. Do not eat bulbs with no onion smell.

Edible Parts

  • Flowers
  • Leaves
  • Bulb (Root)

Though all parts are edible, Nodding Onion is not considered to be of significant culinary value. The juice of the plant is used as an insect repellent, specifically for moths. The juice can be applied to exposed skin in order to repel biting insects. Some claim that planting Nodding Onion repels moles.

Where Does Nodding Wild Onion (Allium Cernuum) Grow?

How To Identify Nodding Wild Onion (Allium Cernuum)

Nodding Onion is beautiful and unique plant from the onion family. It is unique in its beautiful, nodding, lilac flowers. Soft, grasslike leaves and a 1-2 ft., leafless flowering stalk rise from a bulb.

The stem bends so that the pink flowers, borne in a cluster at the top, nod toward the ground – an umbel of many pink, white or lilac bell shaped flowers at the tip of a long, erect, leafless stalk. The flower umbel is nodding when young, and becomes erect with age. The flowers have 6 petals (tepals actually) with protruding stamens. The plant has basal cluster of several long, narrow leaves.

This plant is native to North America, and is cultivated for its attractive flowers. The bulb is edible and has a strong onion flavor.

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