I just had to have some onion for today’s salad, so I dug the first of this spring’s perennial Egyptian ‘Walking’ ones. Stems averaged about ⅜ of an inch in diameter, and they were just a little tough, so they had to be cut into quite small pieces to avoid adding an unpleasant texture to the salad; but they tasted delicious!
Egyptian onions have extensive, succulent root systems. Even these early ones required a good bit of tugging on a digging fork with tines pressed at least 8” into the soil to pull them out. Shown here are the roots from just one stem; the root mass for these six closely spaced stems was a tangled ball about 10 inches in diameter. For the person patient enough to wash them carefully and snip them into tiny bits, or better, to puree them in a blender, the roots can add a wonderful spicy flavor to an otherwise bland salad dressing.
So, you ask, how can I grow these earliest of delectables? See http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene18b1.html for a summary. I honestly don’t recall where I got my original start of these perennial onions, but if you’re reading this, you can do a quick online search for information.
Plant the bulbils (top setting “seed” starts something like the “sets” you can buy everywhere this time of year) in the fall, and harvest just a few in the spring but let the remainder grow another year. By the following spring, you’ll have a nice onion patch like this:
Harvest what you wish, but leave some for the future. By mid-summer, your onion patch will have clusters of bulbils atop each plant:
By early autumn, these will have matured and may even send out shoots on which additional bulbils will form. At this time, the largest of the bulbils can be harvested for pickling, or for the luscious flavor they’ll add to soups or stews.
As winter approaches, the top stems will die and fall to the ground, allowing bulbil clusters to touch the soil up to a couple feet from their parent plant stems. There a new plant will be seen to have ‘walked’ to its new location. Are these bulbils hardy in northern climates, you ask? The average February temperature in my region was just over 9 degrees F, but here’s a bulbil cluster that lay on the ground all winter, now sending forth roots and shoots.
By next spring, a new bunch of tasty green onions will have grown at this spot!