By Lani Hansen/Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma– Spring is here and with COVID-19 keeping children away from school and adults away from their jobs, there were many citizens taking advantage of the outdoors and picking wild onions.
Wild onions or Tafvmpuce have been around for a long time. Wild onions can be gathered between February and April. Members of the Five Civilized Tribes pick and clean wild onions for dinners in different communities which are usually held at churches, community centers or even a home meal.
Muscogee (Creek) citizen Jamie Bennet, reflected back on two years ago when she and her family moved to Porum, OK to start a cattle ranch. When they first went to look at the land before moving, she noticed a creek running right through their land called “Opossum Hollow.”
“We first started to looking for the onions near the creek, but it was really rocky,” Bennet said. “Then, me and my mom were walking around and we looked up and they were all along the edges of the sandy parts where we didn’t have to dig through the rocks.”
Bennet describes the onions on her land, as bright green grass. During her first year out there her cousin called her about the meetings they held in the spring.
“When he called I was telling him all about the onions and he said, ‘oh can you send them out here, we don’t have that and we would love to have it at our gathering,” Bennet said. “I said oh yeah, thinking he was going to ask me for a couple of bags but he asked me for about 25 to 30 gallons.”
After talking with her cousin, Bennet asked her mom if they could go and find some wild onions and her mom said, “well we can do the best we can.”
Eventually they gathered as much as they needed, Bennet said she would pick and her mom would clean them. Then after about a week, they got the onions ready to send and she was nervous about shipping them so she knew David Hill, who was a councilman at the time, would be traveling out to where her cousin was and he offered to take them.
Bennet told her cousin that she does not sell her onions, but she would rather give them away or show people how to hunt for onions. In exchange her cousin, Muscogee artist Kenneth Johnson, that he would send her something in return for the onions so he sent a necklace for her and a ring for her mother.
“People ask me, well why don’t you sell them? I just don’t want to sell them and kids need to learn how to do it themselves instead of buying it,” Bennet explained. “If you sell it then you could possibly lose that cultural connection of how to get the onions.”
Bennet’s children know how to hunt and identify onions because she taught them how. One time it was early in February her son had found some onions but they were garlic, so she showed him the differences between a garlic and wild onion. A garlic onion looks more blue-green, its tougher and has a stronger sense. A wild onion is more tender, brighter green and near water.
Once Bennet has gathered enough onions to eat she cleans them and cooks the onions. Bennet was taught by her mother on how to cook the wild onions. She said, “I don’t know how everyone else does it, and someone might say well that’s not how you make them. I will just say that’s how my mom showed me how to do it.”
The following recipe for making wild onions makes a meal for four to five people.
First she makes sure the onions are clean, then she chops them up into one and a half inch sections. Next she takes a cast iron skillet adding oil (lard or bacon fat), so she can start sautéing the onions until they start to wilt a little bit. Once they starts to wilt, then add ¼ cup water. After adding water, place a lid over the onions to let them steam for about eight to ten minutes on a low temperature. While the onions are steaming, mix six eggs like if you were to scramble them adding milk. Then pour the egg mixture over the onions, let them cook a little bit then start folding it over. Add a little salt and pepper, and allow the eggs to cook. When most of the moisture is gone the dish is done.
This recipe is one out of many, but those who would like to use it are welcome to try.