Can You Eat Raw Wild Onion to Survive? Is it Safe?

When you are in a survival situation, be it a short-term or a long-term one, you might not have much say so about what you eat. If you’re in a major hurry, lack resources or just have really bad luck, you might not even have time to cook your food.

wild onion

Some foods are better than others when eaten raw, and not all raw foods are safe to eat. Knowing which ones you can safely eat raw might make the difference between living and dying, or at the very least getting sick or not.

Let’s look at wild onions, for instance. Can you eat raw wild onions to survive?

Yes, you can eat raw wild onions safely. Wild onions have useful vitamins and minerals though they offer very little in the way of calories. Also, you must be very cautious about dangerous toxic plants that look very similar!

Wild onions are prolific plants that grow all over North America and around the world in one form or another.

They can help keep you alive, and supplement a diet of other gathered wild edibles by providing you with needed vitamins and minerals, but it’s going to be really hard to tame your appetite with them.

There’s a lot more to know about eating wild onions, raw or not, and I’ll tell you all about it below…

Do Wild Onions Taste Like Grocery-Store Onions?

This is no surprise, based on the name, but wild onions taste very much like the onions you buy in the grocery store, although depending on where they are growing they might taste very faintly of onion, or they might taste very intense, sharp and harsh compared to what you are used to.

Also, some species of wild onions might taste more like a typical clove of garlic than an onion!

In short, if you like onions you’ll like wild onions, and if you’ve been blessed with an abundance of other gathered edibles, freshly caught fish or other game animals, wild onions make a wonderful addition to your meal.

Be Careful: Dangerous Plants May Look Like Wild Onions!

Before we go any further, I must remind you that you’ll need to be extremely careful when harvesting wild onions, and any wild plant for that matter.

Wild Onion vs Poisonous Lookalike (Death Camas)

Wild onions, though, have several dangerous, even lethal, look-alikes found in various regions. Some of these look-alikes appear so similar that even if you look at them side by side, it would make you blanch!

One of the most infamous is the death camas, a small plant that has long been the bane of farmers since it is easy for this plant to wind up in harvested livestock feed, and even animals mix them up when grazing or foraging on onions and often wind up dead because of the mistake.

The death camas produces a dangerous neurotoxic compound that directly interferes with the systems responsible for coordination, and also typically results in severe vomiting and nausea.

Significant doses result in heart arrhythmia or cardiac collapse, and subsequently death.

This is advice that every season wild forager has already heard over and over again, but it bears repeating for emphasis: never, ever eat any wild plant you have not positively identified, and if you are in doubt don’t eat it!

Can You Eat Wild Onion Leaves Safely?

Yes. The leaves or greens of the wild onion plant are safe, edible and reasonably tasty if you like onions. They are often harvested and used in place of scallions, and are completely safe to eat raw.

Can You Eat Wild Onion Bulbs Safely?

Yes, you can. The bulb of the wild onion is typically very small compared to its commercially cultivated cousins, but still crisp, nutritious, tasty and totally safe to eat raw. Be advised, some of them can taste unpleasantly sharp and astringent!

Also, if you are able make it a point to at least wash off the bulb, if you can, before eating it.

Can You Eat Wild Onion Roots Safely?

Yes, you can, although the roots contain very little in the way of nutrition compared to the leaves or shoots and the bulb itself.

If you want to harvest the entire onion and eat it, you can, because no part of the plant is harmful.

Can You Eat Cooked Wild Onion to Survive?

Yes, you can, and you should generally. Even though wild onions are typically safe to eat raw, you’re almost always better off cooking them.

Although this will deplete the vitamin and mineral content somewhat, it will also kill off any harmful germs that might be present on or in the onion, and potentially saving you from getting a nasty case of food poisoning or contracting some other illness.

And even though the overall nutritional content will go down, what nutrition is there will be easier to digest, and thus more available to your body.

Wild Onion Nutritional Info

It’s difficult to draw up a conclusion on the nutrients available in wild onions because the actual content is so highly variable based on climate, conditions and the health of the plant overall.

That being said, we know that wild onions, though much smaller than commercially farmed onions, are generally similar to them in terms of nutrients.

Accordingly, it’s safe to say that your average wild onion will have a decent selection of vitamins and minerals, and like most other onions, the B-complex ones will be present, plus thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and folate. Onions are also typically rich in vitamin C.

The mineral content is also fairly diverse and definitely worthwhile, with a decent shot of calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. Onions, including wild onions, also contain trace amounts of fluoride.

Together, these vitamins and minerals are needed for many processes in the body, everything from the balancing of electrolytes and basic cellular function to organ health, circulatory health, bone growth and repair, and much more.

Even if you don’t like them, even if you don’t want to make a proper meal out of them, you should make it a point to eat wild onions when you can find them, especially during a long-term survival scenario.

Where Do Wild Onions Grow?

In North America, wild onions are found across much of the continent, and especially all over the eastern half of the continent.

In the United states, they are prolific in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, up and down the Eastern seaboard, throughout New England and pretty much everywhere else, including through the majority of the Midwest.

Wild onions are hardy plants that grow well in a variety of conditions, from dry, sun-soaked meadows to damp, dense forests and even marshlands.

They’re also deliberately grown in gardens as a replacement for leeks or chives, or sometimes as a replacement for typical onions entirely!

Pretty much wherever you go, there’s a better than average chance you’ll find wild onions if you look hard enough, and you probably won’t have to look very hard at all.

Any Health Issues to Worry About When Eating Wild Onion?

Yes, a few specific ones and a few nonspecific ones. First and foremost, if you’re forced to rely on wild onions predominantly in a long-term survival situation, you’re going to have problems because they are nowhere near nutritionally complete and they don’t provide very many calories…

Also, one issue applicable to all raw fruits and vegetables of any kind is the presence of foodborne germs, both ones that can cause food poisoning and others that might be far worse.

Although food poisoning is rarely cause for alarm in our modern society when help is only minutes away in the form of expert care or medicine, it could take on a terrifying new light in the middle of a survival situation.

Cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and the like can quickly deplete your body’s water and electrolyte levels, and potentially finish you off if you’re already sick or injured.

Because of this, cooking your wild onions is always a good idea if you can, or endeavor to wash them at the very least.

Lastly, onions, more than most other veggies, have a tendency to cause allergic reactions in sensitive people.

This reaction has all the hallmarks of other food allergies, including swelling, itching, sweating, impaired vision, rapid breathing, and potentially even anaphylactic shock.

There is no way to know unless you get tested, have prior experience handling or eating wild onions, or just roll the dice and then experience the reaction. The point is, it’s best to know ahead of time!

None of this should put you off of eating wild onions so long as you have positively identified them, though.

In the end, wild onions are one of the most common and safe edibles you can find, especially if you’re going to eat them raw.

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