Allium triquetrum / Driekantig look

Allium triquetrum Three-Cornered Leek Pfaff Database

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Root.

Edible Uses:

Bulb - raw or cooked. The rather small bulb is up to 20mm in diameter[200], it has a mild garlic flavour and can be used as a flavouring in salads and cooked foods. It is harvested in early summer when the plant has died down and will store for at least 6 months[K]. Leaves - raw or cooked. A leek substitute[22]. The leaves are available from late autumn until the spring, they are nice in salads when they are young, or cooked as a vegetable or flavouring as they get older[K]. The leaves have a milder and more delicate flavour than onions[183]. Flowers - raw. Juicy with a mild garlic flavour, they make a tasty and decorative garnish on salads[K].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Although no 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 sulphur compounds (which give them their onion flavour) 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[K].

Other Uses


The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent. The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles[20].

Cultivation details

Prefers a rich moist but well-drained soil[1, 42]. Shade tolerant[31], it is easily grown in a cool leafy soil[90] and grows well in light moist woodland[203]. Plants are not very hardy outside the milder areas of Britain, they tolerate temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply[1]. The seeds have an oil-bearing appendage which is attractive to ants. The ants carry the seed away to eat the oil and then discard the seed, thus aiding dispersal of the plant[203]. Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes[18, 20, 54]. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other[201]. The flowers are sweetly scented[245]. The picked flowers can remain fresh for several weeks[89]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233].


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse or cold frame. It germinates quickly and can be grown on in the greenhouse for the first year, planting out the dormant bulbs in the late summer of the following year if they have developed sufficiently, otherwise grow on in pots for a further year. Stored seed can be sown in spring in a greenhouse. Division in summer after the plants have died down. Very easy, the divisions can be planted straight out into their permanent positions.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956

Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).

[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.

A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.

[18]Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B. Companion Plants.

Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.

[20]Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.

Fairly good.

[22]Sholto-Douglas. J. Alternative Foods.

Not very comprehensive, it seems more or less like a copy of earlier writings with little added.

[31]Brown. Shade Plants for Garden and Woodland.

[42]Grey. C. H. Hardy Bulbs.

Rather dated now, but an immense work on bulbs for temperate zones and how to grow them. Three large volumes.

[54]Hatfield. A. W. How to Enjoy your Weeds.

Interesting reading.

[89]Polunin. O. and Huxley. A. Flowers of the Mediterranean.

A very readable pocket flora that is well illustrated. Gives some information on plant uses.

[90]Phillips. R. and Rix. M. Bulbs

Superbly illustrated, it gives brief details on cultivation and native habitat.

[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.

Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.

[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.

Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

[201]Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting.

A well produced and very readable book.

[203]Davies. D. Alliums. The Ornamental Onions.

Covers about 200 species of Alliums. A very short section on their uses, good details of their cultivation needs.

[233]Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants

A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.

[245]Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World.

An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.


Called “three cornered leek” (Allium triquetrum) because the leaves have a ridge down the middle of them that resembles the keel of a ship. You might be forgiven for thinking at first glance that this is simply a grass of some kind, but as soon as you crush the leaves or any part of this plant, its garlicky smell is revealed confirming you have the right plant. All Allium species are edible with some being more flavoured than others.

It is the closest species we have in the wild to garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), also known as Chinese Chives, so as you can imagine it goes well in SE Asian and Chinese fusion recipes.

Found throughout England, Wales, and Ireland but rare in Scotland it was first cultivated in England in 1759, and in Cornwall you could be fined for allowing it grow due to it being highly invasive.

Rather than complain bitterly about ‘immigrant plants’, the solution as with most invaders is to simply eat them! The flavour is extraordinary and no longer will you need to pay extortionate amounts of money for those baby leeks that sit winking at you in supermarkets. In fact on the Continent it is often referred to as ‘wild leek’, however the true wild leek Allium ampeloprasum is extremely rare in Britain.

The young delicate leaves of A. triquetrum have traditionally been cut up and used in salads. I personally prefer them to spring onions because their flavour is not so oniony.

The plant is eaten in North Africa as well as numerous European and Mediterranean countries. In Sicily they are mixed with olives or cheese.

Facciola mentions that they can be “fried, boiled and served with cream sauce, used in leek soup or canned for winter use”.

Down in Southern Italy in the Calabria region they are traditionally boiled in water and vinegar and then preserved in olive oil.

On the island of Corsica it is used along with Common Brighteyes (Reichardia picroides), Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris), Borage (Borago officinalis), and Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) along with other wild edible plants in a wild soup.

If you do not want any garlic odour, then simply remove the green outer leaves and keep the stem which makes for a very tasty delicate vegetable.

Edinburgh’s chef Paul Wedgwood who I have worked with over the last few years includes them in his gorgeous Garlic Mustard Vichyssoise served at the highly acclaimed Wedgwood The Restaurant.


Three Cornered Leek With Spiced Tahini Rice

Three Cornered Leek, Ground Elder & Chicken Patties

Thick Three Cornered Leek & Kelp Tom Yum Soup

Lady’s Smock & Three Cornered Leek Salad

Three Cornered Leek Hummus

Three Cornered Leek Hummus recipe.


400g tin of chickpeas

200g three cornered leek (chopped)

6 tbsp of tahini (I use Al Nakhil from Lebanon as it doesn’t have the bitterness most Greek/Cypress tahini brands do)

3 tbsp of lemon juice

6 tbsp water

3 garlic cloves (chopped)

2 pinches of salt

Suggested Instructions

Put chickpeas in blender, and pulse for a few seconds.

Next add all the other ingredients and blend until of the consistency you desire. Some folk like it chunky, others smooth, the choice is yours.

Lady’s Smock & Three Cornered Leek Salad

Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis), also known as Cuckooflower, is one of my favourite edible wild flowers. Delicate and beautiful I never really use much as it’s not that prolific. It packs a punch though with a fiery taste similar to a strong mustard.

Three Cornered Leek (Allium triquetrum) is coming to the end where I live. It’s part of the Lily family and is great used in salads, as it imparts a mild garlicky onion flavour. A perfect replacement to mono-cultured spring onions that are so ubiquitous in British salads!

2 good handfuls of Three Cornered Leek

a few sprigs of Lady’s Smock

3 large, ripe tomatoes

a good glug of olive oil

balsamic vinegar

sea salt

black pepper

Suggested Instructions

Pick the fern like leaves from the stalk of Lady’s Smock and put in a salad bowl, along with the flowers.

Chop up the Three Cornered Leek and add.

Chop the tomatoes and add.

Pour a good glug of olive oil onto the salad.

Add enough balsamic vinegar to satisfy your desired taste.

Add a pinch of sea salt and pepper.

Serve with a good artisan bread, or as an accompaniment to your main meal.

J Nat Prod. 2003 Nov;66(11):1405-11.

Saponins and flavonoids of Allium triquetrum.

Corea G1, Fattorusso E, Lanzotti V.

A phytochemical investigation of the flowers and bulbs of Allium triquetrum has been undertaken, leading to the isolation of five new furostanol saponins, triquetrosides A1/A2 (1a/1b), B (3), and C1/C2 (4a/4b), from the flowers, along with ascalonisides A1/A2 (6a/6b). The 22-O-methyl derivatives of triquetrosides A1/A2 (2a and 2b) and C1/C2 (5a and 5b) were also isolated, but they are considered extraction artifacts. Large amounts of seven kaempferol glycosides, of which one (7) has a new structure, were also isolated from both flowers and bulbs. The structures of the new compounds were determined by spectral and chemical methods.