Mvskoke traditions: wild onions

Mvskoke traditions: wild onions
(MNN File Photo) Wild onions grow from January to March and can be found in sandy areas and in the shade of the woods.

Amanda Rutland/Media Specialist

Sharing traditional foods

Originally published in MNN March 1. 2015 edition.

OKMULGEE, Okla. — “A Creek Indian has not fully prepared for the advent of summer until he has eaten his fill of wild onions in the spring, and it is even better if the meal has been shared with good friends,” Muscogee (Creek) citizen Beulah Simms wrote in her book, ‘Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Indian Foods.’

In the early spring, wild onion dinners begin to sprout in areas throughout the Muscogee (Creek) Nation jurisdiction. These are widely attended and picking tafvmpuce, or wild onions, is a tradition that has been passed on from earlier generations.

Muscogee (Creek) citizen Norman McNac has been picking wild onions with his mother since he was 11-years-old. He said that picking wild onions was something Mvskokvlke did pre-Removal.

“My grandmother and her grandmother said they have passed it down for a long period of time,” McNac said. “[My grandmother] said when she was a young girl, they went out and picked them… [It was] like an extra food for them.”

According to McNac, wild onions are in season from February to March, but can grow as early as the middle of January.

“[It] depends on how the season goes; how warm it is and everything,” McNac said. “We start checking in mid-January like when the pecans start dying out.”

Simms and McNac agree that wild onions grow in sandy areas, along creeks and in shady wooded areas.

“If you get a lot rain, you get a lot of them coming up in different places you don’t ever really see them,” McNac said.

McNac said wild onions can be picked only before they bloom because they become poisonous and can cause sickness. Also, beware of a plant that is similar in appearance known as crow’s foot. It is also poisonous.

“The difference is, where some of the onion is kind of flat and the other ones are kind of round looking. If you pick them quite a bit, you can tell the difference. Once you pick [the wild onions] out, you can smell the onion smell on them,” McNac said.

In her book, Simms stated that crow’s foot has flat leaves, but wild onions have long slender, round leaves.

The following wild onion recipe comes from Simm’s book:

Wild Onions

4 Bunches of wild onions
½ cup water
6 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons bacon grease
1 Teaspoon Salt

Clean and wash onions thoroughly, making sure all the soil is washed out of the leaves. Cut into one-inch lengths. Place onions in a skillet with water and simmer until onions are tender. If the onions are old, simmer in salt water. Pour off the water and add bacon grease and cook until the onions are wilted. Add salt and eggs and stir until the eggs are completely cooked.

For more information about ‘Hokti’s Recipe Book of Creek Foods,’ visit:’s-recipe-book-of-creek-indian-foods.


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