Tag Archives: Egyptian onion

Harvesting Heirloom Yellow Potato Onions

harvest with one lone flower

I dug up my yellow potato onions and was surprised to find almost 40 bulbs. I first wrote about them in September 2016, when I received the shipment from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I planted the original 15 bulbs in the fall in very loose soil, high in organic matter. This spring, green stalks grew so that by summer there was green tubular foliage, similar to scallions. By the end of June, I could see bulbs clustered at soil level, as if emerging from the deep. The green stalks were bent and falling over so that when it was clear that the stalks were dying, I dug up the bulbs in the beginning of July.

Potato onions are a type of multiplier onion called Allium cepa var. aggregatum. They multiply at the base by making more bulbs. They are not as large or as pungent as onions we get at the grocery store. Within the same species are shallots, which also multiply at the base but are milder, can be eaten raw, and are round or bullet shape. The Egyptian walking onion is another type of multiplier onion, a different species called  Allium cepa var. proliferum. The difference between potato onions and Egyptian walking onions is that potato onions do not create bulbils at the top. The Egyptian walking onions create bulbs in the ground and bulbils at the top; therefore, are “proliferate.”

green stalks are down, signaling harvest time

In my Virginia garden,  potato onions are planted in the fall, dug up in the summer, cured until fall, and then some are re-planted and some are eaten. Thus they are “perennial” because they will exist in the garden every year. In the 1800’s, they were very popular because they were a constant source of onions, they stored for a long time, and they propagated easily. People just passed them along to neighbors and family. Now they are considered an heirloom. Very few seed catalogs sell them and you probably will not see them in your garden center.

Like other onions, potato onions have to be cured in order to extend their storage time. Bulbs should be in a shaded, warm, dry, well-ventilated area for a few months. I could slice up the large ones now and cook them or just let them cure if I want to use them in the winter.  In the fall, I will plant the smaller bulbs and harvest again next year in July. It’s a perennial cycle but I am looking forward to sliced yellow potato onions in butter and parsley over broiled trout, with green beans on the side.

You Can Grow That: Walking Onions

bulbil on walking onion pulling stem down

bulbil on walking onion pulling stem down

You can grow walking onions, also called Egyptian walking onions, tree onions, winter onions, and perennial onions.  Unlike an ordinary onion plant, Allium proliferum will produce little bulbs at the top of the plant in the summer. The weight of these marble-sized bulbils will pull the stem down, enabling the bulbils to root and produce a new plant. Although walking onions seem to walk by producing new plants a few inches away, they are not invasive.

Walking onions are very hardy, perennial plants in our Virginia area. They are also “passalongs,” easy to give away to friends. I received mine from a fellow member of the Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America. I was interviewing her at her Falls Church home for the Potomac Unit newsletter because she had been a member for over 25 years and had quite a lot of herbal experience. After we talked in her living room, we walked around her herb garden and she snapped off a few bulbils from an enormous tub of walking onion plants. She said when her kids were young, they used to grow them along the fence and weave the stems in and out of the holes. The tub of plants came from her original set about 30 years ago! That was five years ago and so far, my plants have thrived enough that I can now pass along plants to friends as well.

walking onion stems in March

walking onion stems in March

Walking onions prefer full sun, organic matter, and well-drained soil. They grow to 2 to 3 feet tall with hollow green stems. All parts are edible. If you cut the stems for cooking or salads, cut only a few stems at a time and don’t cut the ones that have bulbils. Stems can be eaten fresh in salad or cooked. You can cut the bulbils when they form in the summer and use them for cooking or pickling. In the fall, the entire plant can be dug up to harvest the underground bulbs. Simply divide and used some of the bulbs like you would with regular onions in the kitchen and re-plant the rest.

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Gardeners usually post articles on their blog on the fourth day of the month (fourth day, four words: #1: You; #2: Can; #3: Grow; #4: That).

Youcangrowthat

 

 

 

Saying Hi to Old Friends, a Mid-March Walk Around the Garden

I love to walk around the garden in March to see what is coming back but at the same time, I love to start new plants from seeds indoors. This week, mid March, the bright green foliage of parsley has emerged. A biennial, I harvested leaves from this parsley last year; I tend to use parsley quite a bit for meals. This year, the same plant has come back to flower and set seed. I hope to start a parsley patch that will self sow, creating more than enough for the kitchen.

parsley

parsley

The new growth on the tansy is pretty but the old growth is messy, which I will need to trim when it gets a little warmer. Last year, I used the tansy for flower arrangements. This year, I will see if there are more uses for tansy. I always try new herbs each year and a few weeks ago I started two types of fennel by seed in the house. They germinated so fast I had to pot them up and bring them outside for more light. You can’t really tell the difference now but the leafy fennel is on the left and the bulbing fennel is on the right. I have several more pots, I may have to give some away!

tansy

tansy

shallots

shallots

The slender shallots braved the snow; they were this size this last fall when I transplanted the seedlings to this bed. As the weather warms up the shallots will continue to grow and make little bulbs for cooking. Their cousin, the chesnok red hardneck garlic, was planted last fall to be harvested this summer. Their perennial cousin, the walking onion or Egyptian onion, has been thriving in the garden for years now and feel quite at home among a tulip and a hyacinth.

leaf fennel on left and bulb fennel on right

leaf fennel on left and bulb fennel on right