I have nothing against garlic. I like garlic. But I ADORE onions, and wild onions (Allium canadense) are my favorites. The taste is strong and kind of combines onion and garlic (to my refined palate) so it's a much loved ingredient in my kitchen. This year I'm determined to harvest enough wild onion to get through the entire year; yesterday I picked and dried the first of several batches.
Wild onion is considered a weed by most people, along with its cousin, wild garlic (Allium vineale). Wild onion has blue-gray, solid stems that grow to about 18" tall. All parts of the plant have a distinctively onion-y smell, so there's no chance of poisoning yourself with a similar-looking plant, as long as you have a sense of smell.
Wild onion is easy to harvest. Bulbs are usually single, shallow rooted, and pull out of the ground easily, leaving only the smallest hole behind. (Wild garlic tends to grow in clumps that have a more desperate grip on the surrounding soil.)
Because wild onion bulbs usually grow singly, they are relatively easy to clean. A brief rinse is all it takes. (Wild garlic tends to have numerous small bulbs that hold soil tightly between each bulblet. )
Now is the perfect time to harvest wild onion, before the plant sends up a stalk that produces flowers and bulblets (which shatter and propagate themselves). Producing the stalk draws on energy stored in the bulb and decreases its size.
What are the ethics of foraging a crop that results in the death of said crop? Any time the edible part of a plant is the root or bulb, you're not leaving anything behind to regrow for next year when you harvest. Of course you wouldn't do it on private property without asking, and in general, wild onion is considered a pest plant...plenty of people spend considerable time and money trying to eradicate it from lawns and fields. I don't know how the City of New York feels about it, and I'm not sure I WANT to know, since ignorance is bliss (although no excuse in a court of law). But I'd be interested in your opinions...