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Traditional Foods - Prairie Onion

The prarie onion can be used fesh or it can be dried and saved for later use. Plains tribes, particularly the Lakota, used prairie onions to flavor soups. The onion has more of an intense flavor the longer it is left to grow. However, they become more bitter once they begain to flower1.

It is a bulbous perennial which typically grows 12-18" tall. Features clumps of flat, narrow, grass-like leaves (to 12" tall) and tiny, starry, bell-shaped, reddish-pink flowers which appear in rounded clusters (umbels) atop erect, leafless scapes rising slightly above the foliage. Blooms in mid to late summer. Leaves often die back by the time of flowering. Leaves and flower scapes rise directly from the bulbs. All parts of this plant have an oniony smell when cut or bruised.2

Medicinal use of Prairie Onion: A sweetened decoction of the root has been taken, mainly by children, as a remedy for colds. Although no other specific mention of medicinal uses has been seen for this species, members of this genus are in general very healthy additions to the diet. They contain sulfur compounds (which give them their onion flavor) and when added to the diet on a regular basis they help reduce blood cholesterol levels, act as a tonic to the digestive system and also tonify the circulatory system.3

Tea was made from the bulbs to control coughing, vomiting, colds, scurvy, ‘dropsy’, asthma, to remove deafness, as a stimulant, diuretic, flatulence reliever, expectorant and mild cathartic. A tincture was used on children to prevent worms, treat colic, on bee or wasp stings and as a croup remedy. The onion was rubbed on the body to protect it from lizard, scorpion, tarantula and snakebites, as well as insect bites and stings. As a smudge, it was used to treat colds, headaches and clear up sinuses. Nursing mothers drank a tea in order to pass its medicinal properties onto their babies. Dairy cows, which eat wild onions, have milk that tastes like onions. Frontiersmen ate wild onions to prevent scurvy.4

1Source: Great Plains Good Health and Wellness Program: "Tradition and Nutrition feed your DNA" gptchb.org

2Source: Missouri Botannical Garden: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=i670

3Source: medicinal herbs- Prairie Onion Allium stellatum:http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/a/allium-stellatum=prairie-onion.php

4Source:Culturally Significant Plants- US Forestry Service :http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/CulturallySignificantPlants.pdf

Buffalo Minestrone


  • 1 lb. ground buffalo
  • 1/4 cup chopped prarie onions
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup uncooked elbow macaroni or broken spagetti
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1 28oz. can whole tomatoes, underained
  • 1 8oz. can kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 8oz. whole kernal corn, undrained
  • graded parmesan cheese


Cook buffalo, onion, and garlic in dutch oven over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until buffalo is brown; drain. Stir in remaining ingredients except cheese, breaking up tomatoes. Bring soup to boil; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until macaroni is tender. Serve with graded parmesan cheese.

Nutritional Information:

Calories 184, Total Fat 3g, Sodium 721mg, Total Carbohydrates 19g, Protein 22g.

Source: Great Plains Good Health and Wellness Program: "Tradition and Nutrition feed your DNA" gptchb.org

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