Onion Grass the Plant Spirit Ally
I remember, very clearly, the day I first realized I could eat grass. Another neighborhood kid let me in on the secret. Apparently, there was a kind of grass that tasted like onions, and you could eat it (!) All you had to do was find the tall tufts, the ones that felt round when you rolled them between your hands and were hollow inside. You didn’t need parents or gadgets or even a fork, and you could collect it yourself anytime you pleased.
It was as if I had just found the closet door to Narnia. The whole world shifted on its axis, like stepping from my day-to-day life into a fairy tale. Only the fairy tale was real.
I was four or five years old at the time and it had honestly never occurred to me that you could eat actual food directly from the earth. I knew in a “barnyard storybook” kind-of-way that food came from the earth, but it had never really landed until this moment. Growing up in deep suburbia with processed cereal and wheat toast, I thought you had to do a whole lot of hard, technical out-of-reach adult stuff in order to create food. I never realized until this moment that food was freely given by our earth. That I could simply wander in the world and be fed. That there was nothing I had to do to deserve such a gift, except be a denizen of this planet. And that the nourishment offered by the land was abundant in a way I could never have imagined.
Once I knew what to look for, I saw onion grass everywhere! Whereas before all I spied was an endless monotonous expanse of lawn, now I found a feast offering itself to me. A wide, open, endless plain of magic.
The more I ate from the wild earth, the more magic I became. Suddenly, I was a bird, nuzzling in the grass to find my dinner. A deer, a bee, a creature dusted with pollen and sanctified by my being in the world.
It was a revolution in thinking, an expansion of essential possibility. And it changed everything for me.
I was so enthralled I told every other kid on my block about the magic of onion grass. For days I ate as much as I could, giving myself a belly ache more than once. But I didn’t mind, I was filling myself up with something more than food. I was padding my cells with wildness, imprinting my being with a vision of what the world once was and what it continues to be.
As silly as it sounds, onion grass was my first “spirit plant.” It was the plant that came to me and opened my eyes to see the world in all its wonder and generosity. Onion grass helped me to see (as the luminous herbalist Frank Cook once put it) beyond the “green wall,” and to realize that living on earth doesn’t have to be so complicated or out-of-reach. It can be nourishing, satiating, cozy.
I picked up a few other wild edibles in the twenty odd years between my onion grass revelation and my time studying at the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. But when I entered the Chestnut school as a student that first spring my heart and pantry were swung open in ways I had only imagined before. I entered into Narnia, equipped with my onion grass wizard staff, and found a heaven on earth.
Violets, burdock, elder. Daylily, mimosa, rose. Wildcrafting and gathering my own food has become one of the greatest joys of my life. To know how to fill myself with the bounty of the earth. To greet the plants by name. To rejoice as the seasons shift and my herb friends return is truly what gives structure to my spiritual life on earth. It inlays the months of the year with meaning, gives the seasons texture and taste.
A truly powerful way of living came into being for me when I studied with the Chestnut School and now, I feel so much delight to be able to share all of this wondrous learning with you.
I’m honored to be one of the core teachers for the Chestnut School’s new Online Foraging Course. A nine month program in becoming a wildcrafter and co-conspirator with the earth. What this school has created is nothing short of stunning. It’s become the most comprehensive online foraging course in the world! And I’m so tickled to be a part of it.
Registration for the course closes on January 15th! And if you use this link One Willow gets a part of the compensation from your tuition, which is just wonderful. So if you are feeling the nudge to open your connection to the earth to Narnia-like proportions, check it out.
You’ll also be able to see me pretend to be a news anchor with an allium-sized stick up my bum. And get one of my all-time favorite wild food recipes—Wild Rose Cordial.
p.s. Did you know that wild onions are one of the first edible greens up in early spring? Check out my legendary Spring Greens Pâté recipe and remember that when the onion grass is up a whole season of foraging will be just around the corner.
Your magical words have given me hope that spring is just around the corner. My “onion grass” is at the base of my back yard stairs and yes I watch for it’s seasonal return.
Asia, I love hearing about your experiences and this in particular reminds me of my daughter. We’ve learned about plants together while she homeschooled, and she confidently finds plants to nibble as we hike or ramble. I know this understanding roots her in the natural world and it is a great joy to see her touch and sing to plants in our world. I wish I could take any of the Chestnut School courses, and I hope to do so with my daughter one of these days! Thank you for sharing your memory of this magical time.