While we were in Nashville attending a Trail of Tears Seminar, a friend of ours from Chattanooga, gave us two mysterious plants. She asked us to help her identify them because she has had them for over 50 years and they originally came from her mother’s garden. In the back of our minds we knew that these twisted stem garlic-like plants were probably native. Both our friend and her mother cooked with these plants and they have maintained their strong Cherokee heritage. We were happy to do a little investigating and discovered that the “Meadow Garlic” was indeed native to the Southeastern United States and the Cherokee had several uses for this strange looking plant.
Before we discuss the Cherokee uses we want to describe this plant. While being a member of the Allium family (onion, garlic, and leek family) it has very unusual growing characteristics. First of all, the hollow stem resembles a regular onion stem but carries a very garlic smell and taste. What is surprising about the stem is the fact that it twists and turns after flowering. Then the flower forms garlic shape bublets at the end of the stem. It propagate itself above the ground which is just the opposite of regular garlic and onions.
Not only did the Cherokee use Meadow Garlic as food/herb they also used it for medicinal purposes. In adults they used it as a diuretic and expectorant, but in children they used it to treat colic and croup.