Few-Flowered Leek, Allium paradoxum
Three-Cornered Leek, Allium triquetrum
Few-Flowered and Three-Cornered Leek are invasive wild onions that have been introduced to the UK from overseas. Both plants look remarkably similar, with only a few minor differences, most notably in the flowers. These plants are in the Allium Genus of plants, and so are related to onions, garlic and leeks and share a resemblance in flavour to both spring onion and garlic. Both of these plants are listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales and it is an offence to plant or otherwise cause to grow this species in the wild. As such, they are one of the few plants you can uproot. Their invasive nature means they can quickly establish in large areas, preventing the growth of other native plants, such as Wild Garlic, Bluebells and Daffodils. Despite being invasive, they are also extremely delicious, and have a huge number of culinary uses. When combined with other wild greens, such as Wild Garlic and Garlic-Mustard, the collective flavour they impart is just wonderful. Certainly a Choice Edible in our book!
Wild Leek Checklist
🌳 Deciduous Woodland, particularly near waterways.
🐑 Grassland, including paddocks, damp meadows.
🌊 Waterways, including the banks of rivers, lakes and streams.
🏡 Urban Green Spaces, including scrubland, parks, gardens and verges.
🌸🌞🍂 Feb - Oct
☘️ Long and thin, the green leaves of both species of wild leek have a characterstic shallow groove running the length of the top-side of the leaf, with a corresponding ridge on the underside.
🌷 Few-Flowered Leek produces a small number of pretty, delicate white-petalled flowers on a triangular stalk. The flowers of Three-Cornered Leek are much the same, but tend to have striped green patterning and be more numerous. They bloom throughout spring.
🌱 The flower stems are a distinctive triangular shape, which gives Three-Cornered Leek it's common name. The stalks of Few Flowered Leek are the same.
Fruit / Seeds
🍏 Few-Flowered Leeks produce tiny, edible green bulbs in the base of the flowerheads, known as bulbils. These bulbils are absent in Three-Cornered Leek.
🌱 Flower Stems
Aroma / Taste
👃 The leaves and flowers produce a strong onion / garlic aroma.
👅 The leaves and flowers taste like a cross between spring onion and garlic.
😋 Choice Edible - Both of these plants are delicious, with a range of culinary uses.
🟩 ID Difficulty - Beginner
👃 The strong onion smell is a primary key identifier of this plant.
👀 The distinctive leaf and flower stalk shape are key identifiers.
👀 The green-striped flowers in Three Cornered Leek and the small green bulbils in Few-Flowered Leek are also key identifiers.
⛔️ Both of these plants could be confused with young Bluebells and Daffodils, which are mildly toxic to humans if eaten.
☠️ Bluebells are very pretty, with blue, bell-shaped flowers and similar leaves to Wild Leeks. The leaves (and bulbs) are toxic if eaten. It does NOT however, posses a strong onion/garlic smell, which is the key method of distinguishing the two.
☠️ The Daffodil, the well-known spring plant, could also be confused with Wild Leek when young before they flower. The yellow flowers, leaves and bulbs are toxic if ingested. Like Bluebells, Daffodils also lacks the pungent onion/garlic aroma.
✅ The easiest method of avoiding confusion is to wait until the plants are flowering - the distinctive flowers of Bluebells and Daffodils will be a key visual clue that they are not Wild Leeks!
✅ If you can't wait until flowering season to harvest, then there is another method of avoiding confusion. As both Bluebells and Daffodils do NOT possess a pungent onion / garlic aroma, the easiest way to stay safe is to harvest each Wild Leek leaf individually, giving them a sniff to ensure the aroma is correct. Harvesting individual leaves also prevents you from picking-up other unwanted plants in with the leaves and inadvertently adding them to your basket.
🥗 Salad - Leaves and flowers/buds can be eaten raw and added to salads.
🌺 Garnish - The flowers can be used as a savoury garnish.
🥬 Green - Leaves can be cooked as a leaf vegetable.
🌿 Herb - Leaves, flowers / buds can be used to add flavour or as a pot-herb.
🧉 Condiment - Can beused to make pickles, preserves and sauces.
💊 Herbal Remedy - Is often used medicinally.