Wild Chutney Recipe
In India as here, the rainy season is followed by a huge amount of green plants that respond to the water and are available for only a short period of time. The savory relishes made from these plants are called chutneys, and despite what you might see in restaurants here, there is no real rule on what plants can be used, so there are a lot of chutneys that make use of local wild greens. This chutney uses the wild allium, or onion relative sometimes referred to as wild garlic, angle onion, wild onion lily and "Allium triquetrum." Whatever you call it, this plant is distinctive because it smells like onion when crushed between the fingers and because the stalk has a triangular cross-section (above, right). Be aware that it resembles the highly toxic and ominously named "Death Camus" (above, left), which neither smells like onion or has an angular stalk. Whenever using wild ingredients, use caution and make absolutely certain you know how to identify plants and their look-alikes, and be aware of toxic plants.
Do you have wild onion in your backyard? These plants are highly invasive and do a lot to dominate areas, keeping other plants from thriving. So unlike other plants that I like to eat, I often pull these ones by the bulb, which resembles a green onion bulb. However, like leeks and green onions, this requires an extra cleaning step, as dirt gets layered in the folds of the plant base. The way to get this out is to wash the plants, chop them and then wash them again to remove dirt suspended between the onion layers.
Ingredients - these are highly subjective, and plants are often variable in their flavors, so taste the chutney as you process it and adjust the amount of other ingredients as appropriate. The younger, lighter shoots are more tender; cut away any leaves that are tough instead of succulent. - 5-6 bunches of onion, enough to fill a large mixing bowl - juice of 3-4 lemons or limes, to taste - salt to taste. start with perhaps a tablespoon and increase until it tastes savory but not briny - one thumb-sized piece of ginger root, peeled. - optional-vinegar for cleaning
- cayenne powder, fresh chilies, chopped, or both. This is probably the most subjective ingredient. The potency of chilies and people's taste for them varies considerably. Chutneys generally taste spicy, but not so hot that it obscures the flavors of the other ingredients.